UX & Psychology go hand in hand— How Gestalt theory appears in UX design?
In the age of AI and “Human Centered Machine Learning”, it’s essential that we understand the needs and behaviour of our users. This is doubly true as a UX designer. In order to create work that better serves the needs of our users, it’s important to understand some basic psychological principles. Which is why I want to share with you Gestalt theory. With this toolkit under our belt, we can consciously design user experiences that truly fit the users.
Introduction of Gestalt psychology
Gestalt theory was founded by Max Wertheimer at early 20th century. This psychological philosophy addresses with perception, perceptual experiences, and related patterns of stimulation. The motto of the gestalt philosophy is:
“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” — Kurt Koffka
When human perception meets with complex elements, we recognise the whole before we see the individual parts. As a designer if we understand these psychological principles, we can be more conscious during the design phase. One of the basic document of Gestalt principles stated by Max Wertheimer in 1923, called Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms defined some basic principles (laws) that show how the mind tends to perceive visual stimuli.
Law of Proximity
“Law of Proximity” states when objects are close to each other and they tend to be perceived together in one group. Basically proximity is closeness. If we use clear structure and visual hierarchy we will be less charged by the limited cognitive resource of users, so they will be able to quickly recognise and react.
Law of Similarity
The “Law of Similarity” states that elements tend to be perceived into groups if they are similar to each other. That also means if you have elements with same functionality, meanings and hierarchy level, should visually matching.
“Consistent sequences of actions should be required in similar situations; identical terminology should be used in prompts, menus, and help screens; and consistent color, layout, capitalization, fonts, and so on, should be employed throughout.” — Ben Shneiderman
Law of Common Region
The ‘Law of Common Region’ by Stephen Palmer and Irvin Rock (1999), states that elements tend to be perceived into groups if they are sharing an area with a clearly defined boundary. In design we are often using cards to grouping coherent elements.
Law of Figure Ground
“Law of Figure Ground” states “Elements are perceived as either figures (distinct elements of focus) or ground (the background or landscape on which the figures rest)” Andy Rutledge. This law is very useful when we want to influence the focal point on the screen.
Law of Closure
The Law of Closure states that when we encounter a complex element with a missing part, or with a break, we look for a continuing, smooth pattern. In other words, we fill in the gaps.
The intention to write this article was to emphasise the importance of basic knowledge cognitive psychology in UX design. We are using many different psychological principles, but not consciously all the time. Of course, while Gestalt psychology can help improve your UX, there are many other psychological theories that can help you create a better design process. Keep your eyes peeled for more articles from me about psychology in the design process.
Are you still interested in Gestalt theory? Here are some useful links to learn more about the topic:
Content needs to be tailor-made to serve its own purpose. Over centuries, humanity used content as the main source of people's communication. It's an efficient way to deliver thoughts and beliefs, get engaged and build up sustainable relationships within the community.
Content's format has changed in the recent years. In the past, people could possibly find a valuable piece of content in books, academic journals, leaflets and magazines.
Digitalization opened up the horizons. It made the content creation and distribution process more accessible to the audience.
Content marketing is essential for marketers to tell their brand's story, earn trust and engage their community.
Realising the importance of the educational content, Intellyo has created theCreator Engine. This tool is all about making the creation, publication, and promotion an easy task for everyone. The Creator Engine has the capacity to provide a completed guidance during the content creation journey using the power of data.
But, let's discover first content marketing and its way to build trust and relationships!
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a part of a well structured and defined process. It aims to engage and grow your customer base through high-quality content.
The goal is to create valuable and comprehensive content for your audience and influence them. The key element of the entire process is to build TRUST among your community.
"Content Marketing is the art of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a target audience with the goal of driving profitable customer action".
In the digital marketing world, being trustworthy among your community is not an easy task to accomplish. To boost your brand awareness and make your audience familiar with your product or service, you need to produce content like:
videos, audios & podcasts
newsletters & tutorials
In 2017, B2B companies use content marketing massively on a global scale. According to recentstatistics, 90% of the B2B respondents prefer content marketing as a tactic in 2016. And this percentage is gradually increasing in 2017.
Smart Insights' research prove the importance of content marketing as well. Study shows that 20.3% of the respondents chose content marketing as the most trendy digital marketing technique of 2017.
So, following the international realms, content marketing is pretty dominant. But, you need to take one more step before creating content.
It is very important to define your buyer personas and think what they actually need to read and get informed about.
Every piece of content should deliver a specific value:
Educate your audience
Generate more leads
Reach potential customers.
Use storytelling for better content marketing
Storytelling is the best way to attract and engage people. Stories can be memorable, interesting and attractive. People like them because they enhance their imagination, grab their attention and add value.
In content marketing, you produce your own stories - your brand's stories. Content should be relevant, valuable and supported bygreat USP which helps stand out from the rest.
Once, you start to tell your brand's story, people will interact and respond providing you with importantcustomer feedback. They will share your content, comment on social media and spread the word about you to their family, friends and colleagues. This is a very logical process on how audience reacts and interacts with a brand.
How to build trust and relationships with content marketing
In real life, building relationships and earning the trust of a person is very hard.
You might meet a person with whom you will feel comfortable and establish an instant friendship. But you are more likely to build friendships over years based on mutual interests, life approaches and philosophies.
Trust and relationships between you and your audience work in a similar way.
Here are five suggestions to build trust with content:
Be consistent and implement a customer-centric approach. Offer a highly educational and valuable piece of content to your audience that makes your brand trustworthy and credible.
Discover what topics your target audience might be interested in reading and solve their problem.
Deliver quality content that finds solutions and adds knowledge.
Provide your content free of charge. Remember that content marketing is not about selling.
Follow your initial strategic marketing plan. Its objectives are important to identify your buyer personas and create relevant content for them.
Another strategy is to make allies. It can foster your brand awareness and enhance your product or service reputation. By the word "allies", I refer to experts or professionals in your industry who are acknowledged. They could possibly promote your work, share best practices, provide you with a concrete feedback and advice.
You can start connecting and expanding your network on meetups. Being present at such meetups is a very efficient way to get trusted and build credibility in your industry.
Case study: Volkswagen's campaign builds trust
In 2016, Volkswagen launched a campaign aiming to build trust in the brand. It mainly focused on people's life experiences and memories. The concept was very simple. Every car is connected with a story.
In other words, Volkswagen has been and is still remaining the "people's car". It's always linked with their most beautiful moments and memories. This campaign is a great example of how customers can trust Volkswagen's products on a daily basis.
How Intellyo creates content and builds relationships
The main goal of our blog is to create high-quality content and to educate our audience. We create three types of articles on research, content marketing and growth marketing. We write these articles for you to find solutions for your problems.
Our customer-centric approach helps us build and follow a well-defined content marketing strategy. Either you are a beginner or a professional, you can always learn with us!
Of course, we recognize the relevance of learning but also creating your own piece of content without struggling. Planning, producing and distributing content should be an enjoyable process for everyone. This is the magic of Creator Engine. Simplyrequest a demoand get familiar with this tool.
Intellyo also focuses on building relationships and connecting with high-level experts and bloggers who are willing to share their knowledge and achievements.
Every step leads to educate our audience. It builds a strong and trustworthy brand by providing interesting, relevant and valuable content.
What would happen if your content was deleted from the web? Would your followers miss it at all? Would they lose content they would come to love or value?
Most likely, the answer is no, they wouldn't. In fact, 90% of content is pretty much ignored. So how do you make content that stands out?
To create content that people love, you need to give them something they can't get elsewhere. Content that becomes part of their life. And to do that, you need to create content that has a Unique Selling Point.
Unique Selling Proposition
You probably know USPs from product management. It’s an essential marketing concept for brands and product creation, yet for some reason, content marketers seem to ignore this when it comes to creating content.
Content is a product. So content needs a USP.
Content that is created around vacant keywords is oftentimes built around ranking in search engines so much that it ends up ignoring the readability from a human’s perspective. And at its heart, content needs to be read by your target audience. So your USP needs to be focused on what they want.
When you come to writing your content, you need a unique take. There’s a simple rule to follow in storytelling, and it rings true for all types of content.
Great content adds real value and says something new, or something old in a new way.
Don’t try to become a star
You’re not going to have the resources to compete with the big beasts. So don’t. Change the game.
Don’t just shout out “Our sushi is the best!”. Tell them why it’s different. “We love sushi. And we love dessert. We make unique menus in which we put oranges and strawberries in sushi rolls poured with sweet honey. Wanna try it? We are the only place where you can get it.”
If you want to compete in a market the answer is not to compete because it is much easier to become the best in a new field, where no one has tried their luck before. Instead of playing the game, change the game. Be the one who defines competition.
When you start defining your USP you might feel that you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers. Put simply, you can't please everyone. If you build connections based on trust, it spreads far and wide, helping you to stand out from the crowd.
How to find your content USP and stand out from the rest
There are several ways of discovering your content’s USP but it always comes down to one of the followings.
The power within you
Every successful business starts from the vision of the founder, so use your personality. Your personality can resonate with your audience so long as it is honest and true. And as it is your essence, it is unique. It can't be copied.
Find the sweet spot between your knowledge and passion. This combination can help you drive your mission and find out how you can stand out from the rest with your content.
American entrepreneur Rand Fishkin started his career in the web-design business. He also knew how to drive traffic websites through the variety of search engines and did his best to find strategies to help his clients rank on Google. Rand’s passion for websites and SEO drove him to found SEOMoz blog and fill in the lack of knowledge about search engines on the web.
Mix it up
You don’t need to invent something new, just mix two or more things you already know. Combine cloud systems with music and you get Spotify or the travel industry with the social web and you get Airbnb.
At the beginning, Netflix started as a DVD-by-mail rental service. They were not as profitable as expected, so they reinvented themselves by combining technology with television and started to produce their own award-winning original series.
Narrow your target audience and topic
Another approach is to narrow your target audience as much as possible. Imagine a scenario. You are talented in creating awesome videos, but it’s a struggle to stand out from tons of video production companies. Why not specialize in creating music videos for hip-hop artists alone? When a hip-hop artist needs a video, your specially tailored services are going to stand out.
Promotion becomes much easier, too. You only need to focus on that specific audience. You will know where they hang around and how you can target only those people who are interested.
Discover your content's mission
There are three main parts of creating a great mission statement:
The main target audience - Who do you create the content for?
The content that will be delivered to that audience - What content do you offer?
The outcome that audience will get - Why is it good for your audience?
Lifestyle magazine Mr.Goodlife is a great example. You can find their mission statement under the about us tab in the footer menu on their website:
“Mr.Goodlife has focused on fashion & style, architecture, design, business, and travel. Simply on all the good and positive things in life. He visualizes these things every day with the intention to inspire and motivate people to achieve their goals. Mr.Goodlife introduces an extensive variety of topics by being a trendsetter, using a confident style and an aesthetic quality at the same time. His high level of reach, as well as, the sophisticated network of like-minded people is constantly growing.”
They define their target audience - “fashion & style, architecture, design, business, and travel”
They define what content they offer - “an extensive variety of topics by being a trendsetter, using a confident style and an aesthetic quality at the same time”
And they define the outcome - “to inspire and motivate people to achieve their goals”
Utilize Google Trends
Google Trends is a great tool for helping you to compare different search terms and trends. With several functions it allows you to research the hottest and upcoming trends and find your way to stand out from the rest.
Let's put it into practice. You would like to write an article about food in Germany, but there are tons of food blogs and articles out there. Google Trends can give you great insights into what niche to pick, and what those people are interested in. VisitGoogle Trends and start searching for Food (Topic) in Germany.
As you can see, interest in food as a topic is constant throughout the year. Scroll down and let's find some gold here.
You can see the Related topics and Related queries tabs here. They are all set to Top searches, where you can see what the trendiest related topics and searches are. If you click on Street food you can see it's a hot topic in Germany. Examine a bit closer and you can see it is getting trendier every summer.
Go back to the Food topic and switch the upper right corner button to “rising” in both topics and queries field. You can now see the upcoming data related to our main topic.
Festivals are an upcoming topic, for instance, there is a huge query rising on the African food festival in Berlin. African food is getting trendier in Germany, along with festivals and street food. Utilizing these insights you could write an article or blog about the best African street food at festivals in Germany. Combine the information you gathered from Google Trends and constant communication with your audience to get more specific insights about what they are interested in.
Use your content USP for clear and constant communication. You can tie this whole uniqueness together by developing your branding, design, the tone of voice, and message. Your USP is not a one-time decision. It can change with trends throughout the time. You need to constantly keep people informed about what it stands for. Always tell them what makes you unique.
It is great to be unique. But it can only work if there is demand for what you offer. You should not confuse it with establishing a totally new market with unproven demands. Your USP should be reasonable and easily understandable. If it takes hours to understand it, you won't stand out from the rest.
The headline is still the king of content. It's what draws your reader in. Gets them to actually read the article. But it isn’t what keeps them there. That’s the job of the lead.
What is a content lead?
Put simply, it is the introduction to your article. Yet thinking of it like that is one of the more common mistakes rookie content marketers make. Instead of treating that opening paragraph as an introduction to the topic, you need to treat it as a call to action to actually read the article.
So a lead needs more thought than an overview would. After all, it is the 3rd thing your potential audience will see after the headline and hero image. And these three things together are they keys to your content’s success.
How do you write a lead?
To get to the bottom of a great lead, you need to first understand what it is that your audience is looking for in your content.
And this is where simple psychology comes in.
We’re not going into any real depth here, this is not an article about the psychology of content marketing. But once your audience has reached your article, once they've already been engaged by your headline, how do you keep them on your page?
Give your audience what they want
In the simplest terms available, your lead has to give your audience exactly what they want.
Don’t beat about the bush. Don’t hide things. Don’t promise that if they read this article to the end they will discover the meaning of life.
Just give them what they came for in those first 2 to 3 sentences.
Won’t that defeat the purpose of your article, though?
The short answer is: No.
The long answer is: Not if that’s what they wanted.
Take, for instance a common issue on a computer. Say your MacBook suddenly fails to find the WiFi. Your phone finds it perfectly fine, but your $2,000 laptop is unable to locate your router.
Your lead can tell your reader:
So your MacBook Pro cannot find your Wifi? The answer could be as simple as just renewing your DHCP lease.
Great! You’ve just told your reader the answer. But if they’re not technically minded, they still need to be walked through the solution. Which is where the rest of your article comes in.
And are those technical experts really your target audience?
A lead can act as a filter
When that technical expert reads your lead and drops out, you could see it as losing a potential reader. Or you could see it as losing someone who would never be your customer.
Targeting your content doesn’t stop at your placement or keywords, it continues through the piece itself, and that couldn’t be more true than the lead.
The lead can be a great tool to filter out people who could never be real prospects.
Instead, it helps you qualify your potential audience in their first visit to your blog. Which is great! By qualifying that early, it can drastically increase the effectiveness of your marketing funnel. And it must be remembered that content marketing is just one part of a successful marketing funnel.
By reading your article, watching your video or listening to your podcast, your target audience should be moving from a cold prospect into a warm lead, someone who can be turned into a hot lead in the future. By removing those who could never be hot leads in the very first sentences of your article, you’re increasing the efficiency of turning prospects into hot leads, and eventually sales.
Just enough intrigue and not a dash more
One of the most common traps many content marketers fall into is trying to make their title, lead and opening words as chock full of intrigue as possible. They want their readers to go
Wow, that’s incredible, I wonder what that means?
And that does seem like a great direction to take. After all, if people see a new idea, they’re going to read all about it, aren’t they?
The Secret of Trump
Without going into whether you agree with him or not, there is something to be learned from Trump’s win. Namely something about human psychology.
People do not want new.
Trump’s slogan was not “Let’s Build Something New”. It was not “A New Beginning” or “A Fresh Start”. It was “Make America Great AGAIN”.
In the UK, Leave won the EU referendum not with a “Build a Better Tomorrow” slogan but with “Take BACK Control”.
And when companies launch new formulas of old favourites, they get a backlash. Just look what happened when Procter & Gamble relaunched classic Downy with a new formula:
Oh, and there’s a nice parallel further down the page
The truth is, people don't want new. They want to hear things that conform to what they already know. When people share those “15 things you didn’t know about Geminis” on Facebook, they comment with
OMG, #7 is soooo true!
So how does that translate into writing your lead?
Remember our example from above?
So your MacBook Pro cannot find your Wifi? The answer could be as simple as just renewing your DHCP lease.
Do you see any intrigue in there?
Well, if you’re anything like me, you don’t know what a DHCP lease is, and now your MacBook cannot find your WiFi you kind of need that info.
So while the game has been given away, so to speak, by giving the answer in the lead, the intrigue is how to actually get to the answer.
What is too much intrigue?
Well, to use the same example, let’s say you open the exact same article like this:
Sometimes MacBooks just do not want to find your WiFi, even when all your other devices can. Luckily, the solution is as simple as can be.
I'm looking for a solution. If I open this, I will either click away or scroll through. I’m not going to be engaged in the article. As it doesn't give me what I'm looking for
And too much intrigue leads to clickbait.
How does clickbait actually perform?
Sure, we’re straying into headlines here, but as we said at the beginning, leads, headlines and hero images work together.
Clickbait DOES work. There’s no denying that. It gets clicks, which is the entire point. But that is not the basis of a content marketing strategy. At least not for a company who are selling an actual product or service.
Unlike more traditional forms of digital marketing, the aim of sites like Buzzfeed isn't to sell you a product or service, to push an opinion or a view. Their purpose is to generate page views, which in turn generates ad revenue.
For a company actively looking to sell a product or service, the number of views you have is nothing but a vanity metric. In reality, you need to keep those viewers on site, get them to give you their email, and eventually buy your product. Clickbait is all about ad revenue alone.
What are our Lead Writing Takeaways?
Give away the answer
Keep it short and to the point
Look backwards, not forwards
But not too much
And of course:
6. If you feel your lead would perform better by breaking any of these takeaways, break them.
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Writing content has a lot to learn from the world of copywriting. Specifically direct response copywriting. The old masters of this field, people like Gary Halbert or Gary Becegniva, crafted letters that sold millions and millions of dollars worth of products and smashed their controls. And possibly the most important thing all these sales letters had in common was a story, well told.
Which is where we’re going to start too.
A story is a great icebreaker
We've all been there. Invited to a party with people you do not know. You look around and sip your drink until a slightly overweight man you’ve never met before walks up and starts talking to you. At first, it’s great: someone new is talking to you, someone who may have something interesting to say on a topic you don’t usually talk about…
But quickly, he switches topic. He talks to you about trains. He talks to you about the political situation in Andorra. He talks to you about aliens on Jupiter’s moons. In fact, he talks to you about so many different topics in such a short space of time, you barely hear any of what he says. You’ve zoned out, and are instead just looking around the room hoping for someone to bail you out.
Well, if you don’t sort out the structure of your content, you're going to be that slightly overweight man in baggy trousers. Except on the internet, no-one is bound by social niceties. Your audience is simply going to vanish into the night. And likely start talking to that sharp dressed man with the perfectly groomed beard.
So while the first step in content creation is research, the second is most definitely planning. Plan your article’s flow, otherwise it will run away from you.
The power of a story, well told
But telling a story doesn’t end then. The best copywriters use stories extensively. They build emotion and they persuade by putting their product’s benefits into a believable setting.
And content doesn’t have to be any different. In fact, content should not be any different.
A story does not have to mean an aside. It doesn’t have to be an anecdote. It can be a direct story about how you, the producer, did something directly related, and came to a result that could be improved with your product.
For instance, Direct Response copywriter Ray Edwards, when talking about the importance of closing a sale, told this short, to the point, gem:
But there’s something else you may have noticed in that story from Ray, something important.
Perfect grammar is not always a good thing
The internet is full of people who will pull you up on every single tiny grammatical mistake. But are they right?
Put simply, no.
Grammar exists for one simple purpose: to make words make sense. Grammar should add clarity to your writing first and foremost. If you have to break grammar for that, do it. Need we remind you of this great advice from George Orwell?
Grammar in Copywriting
Sales letters always have a target, and your content should be the same. And that is why “perfect” grammar is not always necessary. Not everyone cares about grammar. In fact, only a small minority care about grammar.
Writing to your audience comes first, which is where that research comes in. Always take a long look at your target audience first, and tailor your message to speak to them directly. And that means your grammar, too.
Copy Analysis is a great way to learn
When looking to improve your own content, one of the best places to start should be looking at other people’s content. Content that has performed incredibly well and stood the test of time. Think of why it performed so well. What was it that had such an influence on the readers, and almost forced them to share.
Direct Response copywriters learn their craft analysing others’ work. If a letter or landing page does particularly well, they break it down and look at each component part.
How did the headline gain the reader’s attention?
How did the lead pique interest?
How did the story relate?
Where was the first offer?
What tone did the writer use?
And so on and so on.
Remember Ray from above? His YouTube channel is full of breakdowns, and one of those is a letter rated as one of the best ever, from the Direct Response legend that is Gary Halbert.
So when you analyse content, you should go into the same depth. Don’t just skim it and take away the tone, the subject and the hook. Look into the words and phrases used, how it talks directly to the prospect, and the rhythm of the piece in general.
Writing for your audience
But by far the biggest thing to be learnt from direct response copywriting is writing for your audience.
There’s a reason the best copywriters charge 5 figure+ fees. Letters are written directly for the audience. They are written and edited and rewritten until the tone is perfect and the voice talks directly to their reader.
Whatever you think of Trump, there is one simple reason he got elected as President: He talked in the language of his electorate. He mimicked them, and delivered his promises in their language. He didn’t use big, fancy words, he spoke directly to the audience.
So do the same. Learn from the best and tailor every sentence, every paragraph to the people you want to reach. And it will improve your content.
Of course, there’s far more to learn from copywriting than the above. But it’s a start. No discipline exists in a vacuum: we need to learn from each other.
So research. Test. Edit and edit again. And don’t be afraid to vary your voice, or break any rule you learned, to get results. Because that’s what matters after all.
Psychology is everywhere, but it doesn't always work like you would think. And one of the most common misconceptions is about change. While we may think we change over time, the reality is that we don’t really change very much at all. So the same basic social psychology principles that applied 100 years ago apply equally today. And you can use these social psychological principles to improve your content marketing.
Whatever you create, some simple psychological principles can help you better target and serve your audience's needs, and convert them to customers. And after all, that’s what content marketing is all about. So here are 5 simple principles to help you convert your customers.
1. Well, everybody thinks that...
One of our basic needs is to belong – for instance a group of people who share some of our ideas and thoughts about life. Once we are members, we may change our opinion or even behaviour depending on what others think or do to remain in the group.
Social proof or conformity makes our life easier as it allows us a cognitive shortcut. We assume that others know more about the situation than we do, so we follow their actions, even if it makes no sense, like Solomon Asch revealed in his experiment in 1951.
Which means that the opinion of others, especially others in the same group as your target audience, is vital. So make what others think about your business front and center. Use reviews, testimonials, focus on the uniqueness of your brand and the positive experiences of the clients you worked with. Featured in press or worked with great brands? Use the logos or link to the relevant magazines. In other words, show off what you’ve got!
2. If they say so
While we're talking about the opinions of others, it's vital to use authority figures and thought leaders in your content.
According to the results of the famous experiment of Stanley Milgram in 1963, 65% of the participants did what authority figures told them to do. And this is very useful in content.
We tend to follow people who have power, expertise or influence thinking that they can’t be so wrong when choosing a particular product. As a result, we more likely choose those brands, too.
So use quotes from experts, link to them in social media, and piggyback on the fact they already have a following of people who listen to them. That can then rub off on you.
3. Returning that favour
Let's say there's an incredible conference coming up. All the most inspiring people from your field will be there. Of course, you want to be there too. The very next day, your colleague hands you a ticket he got through a friend, knowing how much you wanted to go and how great it could be for your career. He doesn’t accept anything in exchange, of course. But you feel you need to give something back. To reciprocate. Not doing so may lead to social disapproval or the feeling of guilt.
When we get something for free, we feel indebted. Giving away well designed wallpapers for smartphones every month for free? Putting a lot of energy into creating a pdf guide available on your website, gratis? There you go!
The best way to give this is to give people the information they're looking for immediately. Don't talk around the topic so you can save the big reveal until later, just give them what they want right at the beginning. If it gives them value, they will read on and they will subscribe, giving you a warm lead rather than a cold one.
4. Want to know more?
If we experience a gap between what we think we know and what we would like to know, there is a strong emotional response, a desire to find out more. This is the main idea of George Loewenstein’s information-gap theory.
What does it mean in content creation? Raise questions or give attention grabbing headlines. By creating a “mental itch”, curiosity appears, which allows us to lead the customer through our journey, providing more and more details. Pleasing their wish to fill the gap, at the end they are hooked up by this rewarding feeling, ready to convert.
5. Something important happened? And I missed it…?
Fear of missing out is the little sibling of information-gap theory and their mother is curiosity.
If you find yourself online all the time, endlessly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, that's Fear of Missing Out. Do you wait for a live session on Instagram, checking every single minute? These might be the signs of this social angst. We don’t want to miss out on anything significant, we want to stay connected with others, be up-to-date and check every platform regularly.
“Don’t miss out” – by clearly vocalizing it, you get the feeling of scarcity. The concept of scarcity is hardly a new one in copywriting, especially Direct Response Copywriting, but it has its roots in the fear of missing out.
A study of Eventbrite reveals that experiences start to beat real things – especially among millenials. Even if we have a physical product, it’s worth setting up an event when the launching date is coming closer, or when a new product line is about to enter the online store. Giving the feeling of an experience doesn’t mean that it should be live. It can be a Facebook event or a live session involving your audience as a group. Being together with others and waiting for something that's about to happen is much more enjoyable than doing so alone.
Although every business and strategy is different, they all target people with thoughts, feelings and cognitive shortcuts. Most of them behave according to the basic social psychology principles above.
Keeping these key principles in mind can help you better understand how to influence your audience’s behaviour and encourage them to takeaction.
Let us know which principles you find the most useful in the comments below.
We all dream of better content. Content that gets read, shared, linked to and connect to your target audience. And there’s more to good content than simply “writing better”.
So here are 77 tips on how to write better content to attract the right people and provide valuable takeways.
1.\tAnalyse your competitors
Before you start any content production, you should understand what your competitors are doing. They may be having lots of success with certain types of content produced to a certain type of audience. So it’s important to find your competitors and analyse what they are doing.
And there is more. You can also learn from your competitors' mistakes. If their customers complain, you can take that information and find a solution for them. Let your prospects know that you have a better product or provide better service than your competitor.
2.\tUnderstand your ideal customer
Find out what your ideal customer is like. Do they purchase every month? Do they spend a lot or they are careful with the money? Do they have the problem we have a solution for?
Linked with competitor research, finding your perfect customer is essential for any business.
3.\tUnderstand your audience
Knowing where your audience is and what content they consume is necessary in order to kick off a successful content strategy.
Once you know where your audience is, you'll know what format to choose when creating content. For example, if you know that your people are on Facebook, you can use videos to reach them as videos trigger the highest engagement.
Find your ideal customers' pain points and come up with a solution. Help them understand the situation, educate them and you'll see they'll be grateful for that.
4.\tBe on top of trends in your sector
You may wonder why it's so important. It's getting more and more difficult to get out there and land on the SERP's first page. If you keep an eye on hot trends, you can make sure that you'll be producing content right in time so you don't have to compete with so many competitors.
Also if you are always there, when something happens and you have a say, your audience will see that you are an expert in your field and that you are credible.
5.\tBe on top of marketing trends
And on the same note, keeping up to date with the latest marketing trends will help you promote your content better. There are great marketing tools that help you leverage machine learning or great hacks to accelerate your process.
6.\tResearch your topic
And this is the biggie. Research, research, research. You may feel like a subject matter expert, but that doesn’t mean there are blind spots in your knowledge.
You can work out what topic you should write by social listening and competitor analysis as well. It's a bit time consuming but it's worth it. You can use great research tools to shorten the process though.
7.\tKeep business goals in mind
If your business plan involves selling a smaller product and then upselling, targeting the bigger product with your content can be a disconnect. Make sure you know and understand your business goals.
Driving traffic to your website when no one converts isn't really the right KPI if you think it through. You have to define SMART Goals. Decide what the main metrics are and what you want to achieve within a certain timeframe.
Planning content can mean two things. 1) Plan your content marketing, and 2) Plan the individual piece of content. And both are vital.
10.\tHave a ToV
A ToV doesn’t need to be rigid, it can be bendable to fit to individual writers, but by having a consistent voice, your content links to each other much better, giving your readers something familiar to keep going back to.
Linked to that, use LSI keywords. These are basically related keywords, but you can use a tool to find these semantically linked keywords. Some will be the same as your synonyms from above, but you may stumble upon some new gems.
22.\tUse multiple header tags
Keep your H1s for your headline, but spread the love with H2s and H3s throughout your content. And don’t be scared on H4s and deeper, too - if they make sense in the content flow.
23.\tUse related images
We are visual animals, so images are important. But don’t fill up your content with stock images. Only use the most relevant visual content to spice up your written word.
24.\tDon’t forget alt-text
But whatever image you do choose, don’t forget the alt-text!
25.\tWrite compelling meta descriptions
Meta descriptions aren’t really for Google anymore. No, they’re for the user, so make sure to make them compelling.
26.\tDon’t forget opengraph
But there’s more than just meta now, so don’t forget OpenGraph for Facebook. It lets you set the image, too.
And that emotion thrives when you give it a good story to tell. So learn from advertising, and work stories into your copy: it makes you more human.
47.\tUse as many words as you need to say what you need to say
Content should not work to word counts. If a topic needs 4,000 words, give it 4,000 words. If it needs 200, give it 200. Don’t stretch it out thin across the page, or squeeze it into a tiny box. Give it the space it needs to tell the story you want it to tell.
48.\tAvoid passive voice
A simple one here. Just head over to Hemingway App, and let the AI tell you all about it.
Don’t repeat yourselves. Just like stretching out a story too long, it will bore your audience...
Short sweet snippets of info are great for social sharing. Like this one.
52.\tGive actionable insights
Content Marketing is in the business of giving people new information or ideas. So give them something tangible, something they can takeaway, and they’ll be truly grateful.
53.\tDon’t go off-piste
Remember to stick to your topic. Sometimes you get a great idea and it all comes out in a flow. But if it’s not on topic, it doesn’t get published. But don’t throw it out.
54.\tIf you do, copy that out and keep it for later
When it does happen, simply copy it out and put it into a file for later. It may be perfect for new content.
55.\tStats and data back anything up
Without data, it’s just your opinion. Which is fine if you’re Warren Buffet. But if you think that man doesn’t use industrial quantities of data, I’ve got something to tell you...
56.\tDeliver the content your headline suggests
Linked to this, you need to deliver what your readers expect. You can’t promise one thing, and then deliver something else. Or can you?
57.\tGet to the point! Don’t ramble
If you’ve made your point, backed it up with data, and told your audience how to replicate, there’s no need to keep banging on. That’s a sure fire way to lose a reader. Best case: they’ll skim on. Worst case: that’s a click away.
58.\tComedy is a great icebreaker
Many experts sugget steering clear of comedy in content. But, so long as it fits to your brand, there’s no reason not to introduce a funny anecdote. Just keep it relevant.
59.\tAnd don’t overdo it
Excessive or forced comedy, however, is a big turn off. Probably the biggest.
61.\tA picture is worth 1,000 words…still had to be written
Images are a vital part of storytelling: we are visual animals after all; but descriptions are still important. Let the images be the hook and free the words to do the heavy lifting.
62.\tRefer to other articles you have written
If you’re writing on a related topic, there’s a good chance someone will want to read that other article. So link to it. Plus, internal linking is vital for SEO.
63.\tPerfect grammar is not a must, but readable grammar is
We can get bogged down in a world of perfect grammar and tiny mistakes being picked up on. But that sentence was not perfect grammatically. Most people won’t notice, and in fact many grammar “rules” make your sentences less readable. Clarity always comes first.
64.\tThe power of 3
A neat trick when writing is the magic triad. 3 words or phrases put together to increase impact. It works and it has worked throughout history. So use it to draw people in.
65.\tBreak up the flow occasionally
Flow may be vital to drawing your reader down the rabbit hole, but sometimes you want to make them pause. So break the flow. That triad? Stop it short at 2. Add in a 1 word sentence, or even paragraph. But not often.
While grammar may not be the be all and end all, making sure your content is readable is. So check it with one of these 2 great tools.
67.\tCut, cut, cut
Your first draft should not be your final draft. In all likelihood you’ve got a ton of content in there that doesn’t add enough value. So cut it. And cut again.
68.\tKill your babies
We all have them. Short phrases or expressions that we create and fall in love with. They’re our babies and we couldn’t possible cut them from our content. Well, sorry, but they need to die. Most of the time, these “babies” are holding you back from seeing the bigger picture. So get rid of them.
69.\tDoesn’t matter how good it is if no-one sees it
Of course, no matter the brilliance of your prose, if no-one sees it, it’s not brilliant. Get it out there! Share, promote, syndicate: get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
Sometimes you can’t fit everything you want to say into 1 article. So don’t. A series of content can be very effective at driving engagement across more than one platform.
71.\tSyndicate your content across platforms
And it’s your use of those platforms that is key. Don’t just post to your blog, look to Medium, to other blogs, to newsletters, to YouTube and social sites, and to anywhere else where your content would fit.
72.\tChange the format
And if it doesn’t fit, try out a new format. Making a video out of an article, or an infographic out of a slideshow is a great way to boost your content’s reach.
73.\tCreate a newsletter
One format you should always use, though, is the newsletter. Keep it coming and fill it with snippets from your latest blog posts to keep interest high.
74.\tKeep track of useful data
Data is key to good performance. While you shouldn’t be driven by it, great content metrics simply help you produce better content.
75.\tKeep track of comments
Comments are a great way for you to not only see what’s working but get more ideas for future content. So keep track of all your comments and refer back to them whenever you need ideas.
76.\tUpdate your content when useful
Sometimes new information becomes available. And when this happens you have two choices. Write a new article, or update the old one. The latter not only refreshes old content but can give it an instant boost, making it a great choice.
77.\tAny rule is there to be broken
Rules are not there to be rigidly adhered to at all times. If you think breaking a single content rule would bring you more impact, do it! Don’t produce a rigidly perfect piece of content that doesn’t perform. Be creative and bend the rules, that’s what they’re for.
WHAT DOES URCHIN MODUEL STAND FOR?
UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, which is a bit of a mouthful. Urchin was originally a web analytics software, developed by Urchin Software Corporation and designed to track the behaviour of unique website visitors. It was bought by Google in 2005 and the acquisition led to the creation of Google Analytics, which became the most popular web data analytics tool across the internet.
Nowadays, the Urchin Module tagging is an analytics tool used by marketers to track the impact of their online marketing efforts, better understand their audience’s behaviour and measure performance. For instance, UTM tags allow you to discover which channels bring the most sales conversions to your website.
It’s made up of tags (also called modules or variables), which you add to the end of a link, to track and analyze the given page’s traffic sources. When a person clicks on the given link, these parameters are sent back to GA and will appear in the different Analytics dashboards.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING THE URCHIN MODULE?
By using UTM tags, you will be able to track the number of new and returning visitors, the bounce rate, conversion and the detailed social media performance of your traffic.
Bu there is also a less known benefit: Urchin Module tagging helps you to get rid of dark social traffic. What does it mean exactly? Let’s say you post your article on Facebook and you set up and ad to promote your content through the platform’s Business Manager. After your campaign finishes, you notice that there are significant differences between the conversion results of Facebook and your numbers on Google Analytics. The reason why this happens, for example, could be that your audience clicks on your link but your page does not load for them because they are using and old phone or old version of the browser. But another reason is that many times your social traffic becomes “dark” and it is registered as direct traffic by GA without the use of UTM tags. However, if you insert the link and add the UTM parameters, you can be sure that GA will recognise it as social traffic!
For example, you would like to understand how many of your website visitors have arrived to your site by clicking on your article’s link that you have shared on Twitter a week ago. However, you have shared your article on several other platforms, spent a substantial budget on promoting it and even sent out an e-mail campaign. How do you know where are they exactly coming from?
HOW DOES URCHIN MODULE TAGGING WORK?
Through this data analytics tool you can track five things by using 5 distinct parameters:
What is the source of your traffic? (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
What is the medium through which your audience ended up on your website? (e.g. social, mail, etc.)
Which campaign attracted your audience? (e.g. Summersale2017)
Which content works best for your post? (e.g. differentiate between two CTA texts)
Which paid term brought you the most traffic? (e.g. if you have paid campaigns you can specify the keyword you used)
The above 5 parameters are the variables you are using when you are creating a UTM tagged link. You must add source, medium and campaign, while content and term are optional.
So how do you create a UTM tag actually? There are actually several ways:
Let’s see a basic example with only 3 parameters: your link is “https://www.utmthings.com”, you shared a post on Facebook and you used it to promote a discount on the software package you are selling.
A super simple service by Google. You just enter the parameters into the field and the system gives you the ready-to-go link. Don’t forget about using consistent parameters, though! The tool even provides you explanations. They created the same service for Android (Google Play URL Builder) and iOS (iOS Campaign Tracking URL Builder ) apps.
Additionally, there are some services, mostly for social media, which create UTM tracking automatically, such as Buffer or Amplifr.
But there are a couple of things you should pay attention to when creating your own custom UTMs!
Don’t confuse source and medium
Based on their name it is not completely evident which one to use. Your source is always the platform’s name (e.g. facebook, newsletter) and the medium is the type of platform (e.g. social, mail).
When naming your parameters, you should use consistent tagging! Be careful because facebook will be different from facebook.com and google is not the same as Google, with a capital letter, in this case.
You should use the full link, with https:// at the beginning and never forget the / at the end! As an example, we don’t put simply “intellyo.com” instead we use the full link, such as “https://www.intellyo.com/”
Instead of spaces, you should use “_” or “+” as the former option won’t be recognized by the system. So, for instance, when thinking about parameters, don’t use “facebook ad”, instead use “facebook_ad” or “facebook+ad”.
Separate the parameters from the URL with a question mark
When creating your custom UTM tag, you add the full link + ? + parameters. The link should be separated from the parameters with a “?”, such that: https://www.link.com/?parameter_1...
List the values and pairs separated by an equal sign
To each UTM value (utm_source, utm_medium, etc.), you assign a pair (facebook, social, etc.), just like I did in the manual method above. These should always be separated with a “=”, which indicates that the utm source equals facebook, for example. So, like this: https://www.link.com./?utm_source=social...
Shorten the link
Long links in your posts, on social media for instance, are annoying for your audience and might significantly decrease your click-through-rate. You should definitely use a link shortener service like goo.gl or even better, you can create your own customized short link!
The process is quite simple. First of all, you have to buy a short domain, for example google.com bought goo.gl or bit.ly instead of bitly.com
After the purchase, register on bit.ly and add your custom short domain to the system. It only takes a few simple steps and instead of using super long links the one you post will simple look something like: goo.gl/Kjsj2Uw (but with your own domain name instead of goo.gl, of course).
It doesn’t matter what order do you use when adding the parameters as long as you pay attention to the other rules.
HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF THE RESULTS?
Now that you understand what does UTM stand for and how to assemble a UTM tagged link, you can check the results through Google Analytics. As a matter of fact, the most useful are Acquisition and Conversion reports. Below, I have added some example questions and the steps to find the answers. The more you are using this tool, the more you will discover within your own data analytics tool.
Which social channel performs the best for your website?
Acquisition > Campaigns > All campaigns > Primary dimension set to Source/Medium
Which campaign performs the best?
Acquisition > Campaigns > All campaigns > Primary dimension set to Campaign
By playing around with the Campaigns in GA you will be able to discover the number of (new) users and their habits. For instance, most of the audience of the Intellyo blog is converting through our social campaigns and our visitors from Reddit are the most engaged with only a 27.78% bounce rate.
Especially if you’re not a professional writer, putting together a blog post can be daunting. Yet more and more we ask subject matter experts to put together blog posts rather than the content marketer themselves. There are some great reasons for this that we’re not going to touch on here. Instead, if you’re a subject matter expert without bags of writing experience behind you, this is the article for you.
Blogging Basics - How you can write the perfect piece of content
We’ve said before that a great piece of content always starts with research. Well, if that’s the case, planning should come second.
Plan your content flow, not content structure
If you’re a subject matter expert such as an SEO expert or Automation guru, you probably look at the topic in front of you and break it down into an understandable structure.
But it’s not the best method.
Don’t worry, you don't have to throw out that neatly organized, structured plan. Instead, just move onto the next step: creating a content flow.
What is a content flow
A structure plan for content is rigid. It defines your content. But a piece of content is alive. It has rhythm. So instead of planning a content structure, you should plan a content flow.
Think of it this way. A sentence is a single thought. That thought can be clear and concise, or it can be long and twisting. But it’s still just one thought.
That one thought is part of a longer concept. That concept is your paragraph. So every paragraph you write should contain one solitary idea. No more.
Each paragraph is one idea related to the sub-topic from your sub-headline.
But you may look at that and still see structure, not flow. Which is where the tricky part comes in. Every sentence should link back naturally to the sentence that came before it. Which is true for the start of every paragraph and even for every sub-headline.
This means that every sentence, every paragraph and every section naturally flow on from each other. Even when your reader moves from one section to another, there should be continuity.
How do you plan your content flow?
You can’t plan for each and every sentence you write, though: you may as well just write the article. Instead, when it comes to planning your content flow, simply take into account how your audience will read the article, and how you want them to.
So let’s say you’re writing about SEO for beginners. You have decided on the sub-topics of:
What is SEO?
What are the main ranking factors for Google?
What are the on-page elements for perfect SEO?
How should your site serve your overall SEO goals?
How do you build backlinks?
Two things can help you build a content flow. The first is H3 tags, basically sub-sub-headlines. You want your reader to be able to skim your article and get the general idea just by reading the headers. So let’s add some in.
What is SEO?
What is Technical SEO?
What is On-Page SEO?
And What is Off-Page SEO?
SEO is more than Google
What are the main ranking factors?
How do you build backlinks?
What are backlinks, anyway?
Domain Authority’s influence on search
What are the on-page elements for perfect SEO?
The Technically Perfect Content Checklist
And where does social come in?
How should your site serve your overall SEO goals?
You may have noticed that we moved one of the topics. This is part of building a content flow. When you plan an article's structure, it's natural to write each section in the order you take care of them. So backlink building comes after making sure your content is technically right. But that may not be the best way to keep your audience engaged. Instead, each section should be directly related to the section before and the section after.
Planning content flow doesn't ensure your article flows, though. Poor sentence structure or a two thoughts in the wrong order can interrupt your reader. Which is where grammar comes in.
Grammar is a guide, not a set of rules
Grammar is probably one of the most misunderstood parts of modern content creation. Copy editors love perfect grammar, and commentators tear apart articles for having incorrect syntax or misspelling a word.
But grammar, in English at least, is not a rigid set of rules. Your blog should not be defined by grammar rules. Instead, use them more as a guide to help you create great content, rather than a box in which you absolutely must play. It’s ok to go outside the lines every now and again.
Orwell’s last point is the most valuable. Keep to the rules, but if your blog flows better with a grammatically incorrect sentence, use it. Don’t flip it around into a sentence that’s going to be difficult to understand.
There are helpful grammar tools
With that in mind, there are some helpful tools you can use to make sure your work flows well, reads well and is as grammatically correct as it needs to be.
The free version of this tool highlights “critical issues” with your article. These can be simple spelling mistakes, contextual errors and grammar mistakes. If you want a more in-depth analysis, you’ll need to buy the full app.
We use Grammarly in our Creator Engine, and it shows up all kinds of errors we may make as we create. We also use the browser plugin, which can give you definitions and synonyms if you click on a word: a great tool when you can’t quite find the word you were looking for.
Unlike Grammarly, you do not need to pay to use Hemingway’s core features. Here, as well as a grammar and spelling check, you can see what reading standard your readers should be at. Plus it highlights difficult sentences, very difficult sentences, adverbs and the passive voice.
As with grammar rules in general, you can ignore some of these suggestions. Most of the time the adverbs or simpler alternative suggestions are miss rather than hit, but that’s AI for you rather than a human copy editor.
But your most important copy editor is yourself. And there is one more trick you can use to make your blog posts more interesting for your readers.
Write a letter
One of the most important things for any piece of writing is whether it talks directly to your audience. Each reader should feel like he is being addressed individually, throughout the article. And one of the best ways to do this is to write the blog to him or her as if it were a letter.
Start by writing
At the top of your page. Then write your article as if it were a letter to Lucy. Now Lucy can be Bob or Max or Sarah, but they should be one of your buyer personas. And when you’re finished, just delete Dear Lucy.
This is even better for things like Facebook posts, headlines and emails.
Which is good, because one of those is the most important part of any piece of content.
Headlines are super important
The perfect blog post is something that’s going to be read and enjoyed by many. It’s going to shared by your buyer persona, it’s going to increase brand awareness and trust. But it cannot do any of those things if it is not read.
Your headline is what gets people reading your article.
Headlines are difficult, because they need to include the keyword your audience has searched for. They need to include enough information so the reader knows this is the right article for them. And they need to provide an emotional trigger, or a reason to click through.
And getting all of that into a headline short enough to fit in a meta title is not so easy.
Direct response copywriters write a pre-headline, headline and sub-headline, and together they give this information. And together they’re usually extremely long.
We don’t have that space to play in, usually, so spending time on writing your headline is worth it. Every time.
So now we’ve covered the basics of how you can add blog guru to your LinkedIn profile, what’s the next step?
Keep your eyes peeled for our advanced writing tips, coming soon. If you don’t want to miss out, sign up to our newsletter and be among the first to get your hands on new content.