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Recently we posted a blog which discussed the use of colour psychology in web design. It’s well known that colours make us behave in certain ways when browsing online, in both a positive and negative manner. But if you can apply psychology to design, then what about your content? Is it possible to craft written work in such a way that it positions thought leadership, encourages a sense of trust and converts leads into sales?

The short answer is yes. In fact, many marketing degrees include an element of psychology in their courses, so it’s actually quite an important part of the marketing mix. According to Quick Sprout, the use of psychology is the better one to take even over concentrating too much on keywords and other SEO practices. This is because Google “is cultivating (sic) its algorithm to cater to human psychology” which it began when it rolled out Knowledge Graph, which aims to better understand how to connect search terms with users and deliver highly relevant content.

The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect is a term which was coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike in his paper A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings way back in 1920 to “describe the way that commanding officers rated their soldiers”. He found that officers tended to label men as being either good or bad, but rarely mixed traits to say that a person might be good or bad in one respect but not in the other. So essentially, when you hear the phrase ‘first impressions count’ it really does appear to have some truth.

This means that people are biased in favour (or against) a person, or an entity such as a brand based on what they first see when they first come in contact with them. So if someone has met one person from a business and formed a favourable first impression, then it’s likely that they will consider the entire business to be good. In content marketing then, it’s important that you create this good impression if people are to think well about your brand and trust it.

Psychology and content

Work to Your Strengths

One of the biggest mistakes that brands make is in spreading their expertise too thinly. To coin another old and rather tired cliché, presenting yourself as something of a ‘jack of all trades’ really does give the impression that you’re ‘master of none’. When creating content then, it’s important that it sticks closely to the core of what the business does. It’s also worthwhile positioning just one person as a thought leader (depending on the size of the company) and ensuring that they put across their knowledge within content in an expert manner.

This increases trust and ensures that the first impression that those reading the content gets is a good one. It’s also useful to write content in such a way that an expert voice makes complex subjects easier to understand to the lay person. According to research carried out by Kapost, “this is a trait professional service buyers actively seek out” so it’s especially useful in a B2B environment.

So content should be:

  • Thoughtful enough so that it can break down complex ideas
  • Accessible to buyers within your niche
  • High quality and well written

For example, in the technology industry, many people bemoan the use of ‘jargon’. It complicates the language and is sometimes used by writers to make their work appear that it was written by an expert. However, it’s counterproductive in that it alienates the reader if they are not au fait with all of the terms used within the industry – and buyers of IT products very rarely are. So in order to create a good first impression, it’s necessary to leave the jargon aside and write in such a way that your audience will understand and be able to relate to.

Think About the Content as a Whole

When coming up with ideas for content, it’s also necessary to plan it as a whole. What images and colours will be used, for example, count on making that all-important great first impression. With regards to colour, you can apply colour psychology to help with this by looking closely at buyer personas and choosing colours that will convey a sense of trust, such as blue.

Images also make a difference within the content too. Try to use images that evoke positive emotions in the reader and remember that it doesn’t have to be your logo – it can be an image of a person or even a cartoon, depending largely on your target audience. For example, if your audience is made up largely of older people, then they won’t be able to relate to a photo of Rhianna, no matter how well she may illustrate your point. Likewise, if your audience is made up of teens and young adults, then it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to relate to a photo of someone who’s the same age as their grandparents.

We’ve only really touched on psychology in content here but it’s an important consideration to remember. First impressions can be the difference between success and failure and once somebody has had that first impression, it can be extremely difficult to sway them against it. It’s far, far easier to ensure that they think that your company is great from the outset. This means that when planning your content strategy, it’s necessary to look at the big picture, taking all of the content into account as well as considerations such as UX once it’s been posted. This is even more important in the mobile world that we now live in as if a site visitor is browsing on mobile (which is very likely) and they can’t view the content easily and without pinching, scrolling, etc. then they will of course gain a terrible first impression that will remain with them.

So, yes first impressions do count, not just a little, they count a lot. Getting it wrong in the first instance can be extremely costly to your brand, so ensure that when you craft your content, you look at how it comes across from every angle.

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