A high click-through rate (CTR) may help you get higher rankings on the search results pages. But a high dwell time will help you keep those rankings.
When a search engine user visits your page and spends a lot of time going through your content, search engines see your page as providing value.
And in most cases, this is true.
As Duane Forrester said when he first used the term “dwell time” on Bing’s blog:
“If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave. The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time.”
He then continued:
“And while that’s not the only factor we review when helping to determine quality, it’s a signal we watch.”
Now, the big question is: how do you present accurate information on your web pages and still ensure visitors stay long enough to read?
Have you wondered why people stick around on a page and bounce off another? As a matter of fact, one of the most powerful reasons is human psychology.
Writers and content marketers who have mastered human psychology use this knowledge to gain an edge and keep visitors on their pages.
Fortunately, in this post, I’ll show you 7 psychological techniques you can use to keep people on your page. And to improve your rankings in Google and other search engines.
Plus how experts have used these techniques on their pages.
1. Tell a story
Stories are one of the most captivating human experiences. And this starts from early childhood. What is one of the best ways to connect with children and adults? Telling stories.
Because stories make us human.
Whether you engage in website SEO or you build websites or you fly to Mars, you are making stories. That is why history is a bunch of stories about the past.
Paul Zak’s research shows that stories change our brains. He said, “Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered than simply stating of facts.”
Now, you need to find the story that your audience cares about and can connect to. When writing about a topic, what are the stories behind it that can captivate readers?
One of the best stories you will find in a post is by popular writer Jon Morrow. In fact, this story is so captivating that it is the most popular guest post on ProBlogger.
Why does this story work? It connects with some of the basic worries that bloggers battle with daily. Jon Morrow uses his story to explain how they can overcome these doubts and problems.
2. Use lists of three
People use lists to memorize objects. Even though you’ve probably heard that the brain can hold as many as 7 items at a time, a list of 3 is usually more memorable.
Looking around the world, many things exist in the list of 3 to aid better retention. The executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. The father, the son, and the holy spirit. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I came, I saw, I conquered.
To make your content memorable to readers and to hold their attention, make a list of 3 items that relate to your post.
In a post on Copyblogger, Brian Clark said, “If you want something stuck in someone’s head, put it in a sequence of three.”
You can also use this list in your headline to attract people to click-through. In Jon Morrow’s post referenced above, he used this list in his headline and part of the post.
3. Use a curiosity gap to attract
There are very few pieces of content that are entirely new. How do you make your content unique and keep your visitors from bouncing off your page?
A curiosity gap can be a lifesaver in this case. A curiosity gap will give your reader a piece of information, then create a gap to find out more.
This is supported by a curiosity study which found that people learn and retain more information when they are curious.
One way to avoid boring your audience is to give them something to get curious about. If you are addressing a popular topic, is yours a unique way of doing the task or a simpler explanation? What are they going to gain by the end of your post?
Another way to create a curiosity gap is to make a big or surprising claim at the beginning of your content. Common claims people make to increase curiosity are:
- Going against conventional wisdom
- Surprising statistics
Look at a sentence in the introduction to one of the most popular posts about link building: the skyscraper technique.
Considering how difficult link building is, Brian Dean made a big claim that will make anybody want to find out.
It is, however, important that you avoid making outrageous claims just for the sake of it. Some claims could make people dump your page which is the opposite of what you want.
4. Appeal to people’s emotions
Everybody is emotional when it comes to a topic they care about. When people are searching about how to clean their home, they want that emotion of feeling good about their neat environment.
When you look for tips that will give you an edge in the search results page, you want to beat your competitors, gain more customers, and increase revenue. In other words, you want that thrill of winning and serving people.
If you appeal to the right emotions, you will have a reader from the beginning of your content right till the end. Some common emotions to consider are:
See this post by Jeff Bullas about 3 startups that made it big:
He talks about the fear that comes with success and the doubt stopping others. He then uses encouragement that keeps the reader glued.
While creating a piece of content, think of emotions that relate to the topic. And find a way to weave them into your content.
5. Ask questions to increase engagement
Questions help you reawaken people who are thinking of their last tweet while reading your post.
When you ask questions, you either make people realize the fact they know the answer or are ignorant of it.
Whatever your aim, it will keep your audience engaged.
To give your questions the best effects possible, you should ask them at the points where you are about to reveal important details to your audience.
Check out this example of a post about buying traffic by Lindsay Marder on Digital Marketer:
Despite the fact she is stating the question concerning the experts, any reader would try to answer this question too. And to even consolidate that, she uses curiosity on the next line.
It is difficult for any reader to stop reading at this point. Perhaps, it is no wonder the post has 4 thousand shares.
6. Use numbers to improve specificity
Why do you think listicles are so popular? Because it gives a feeling of specificity. In fact, this post you are reading is a listicle.
For instance, a study by Conductor found that 36% of people prefer headlines with numbers.
Numbers give clarity. And that is vital in some cases.
That’s why statistics and case studies are so popular. Did you just make a claim in your post? You can use a statistic or case study to support it.
These are raw numbers that increase your authority. If your solution can increase your audience’s traffic or revenue, by how much? 50%? 500%?
Numbers remove ambiguity from your content. You can also eliminate every avenue of misunderstanding.
$500 more is a specific value. Saying “more money” means different values to different people.
In this post about the increasing share of searches resulting in no clicks, Rand Fishkin used numbers to support his claims.
Of course, without numbers from the study, readers will lose interest and leave the page. Here, the audience wants to see the numbers.
7. Ask for favors to aid consistency
According to human psychology, if you want people to like you, do something for them. If you want them to love you? Get them to do things for you.
That would explain the main reason parents love their children so much.
People want to be consistent.
If they have taken an action due to your instruction or dropped their email address to get your ebook, it’s easier to read your post due to their prior investment.
In the book, Influence, by psychologist Robert Cialdini, he said, “Once we have made up our minds about an issue, stubborn consistency allows us a very appealing luxury: We really don’t have to think hard about the issue anymore.”
You don’t need to ask for a big favor, it’s enough to ask them to take a simple action that would make them invest something while reading. This would make them more likely to read till the end.
Check out this post about creating bookmark-worthy content where Bill Widmer asks for a favor: to bookmark the page.
Here is a case where Ramit Sethi talks about the engagement he got on his post when he asked his readers for a favor. Do you see the numbers?
Getting organic visitors to stay on your website is much more than the details you want to present. You also have to present it in an attractive way.
When you hook visitors on your page, you can get them to stay longer on your page, visit other pages, and thereby reduce bounce rates. Consequently, search engines will see this as a positive signal and rank your pages higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Of course, not all of these techniques will work all the time. But you can always apply them where possible in your content.
Bookmark this page as a reference while trying to create your next compelling piece of content. Also, share this post with your friends. You don’t want them to miss this right?
Guest author: Olumide Samuel is the founder of Copywriters Now. He’s a content marketer who helps businesses create valuable and results-oriented content. You can get more details on his blog or follow him on Twitter @Olumide_Fab