3 psychology-backed methods for boosting your blog’s traffic, and why they work

There are endless studies proving that marketing — just like everything else in the world — is purely based on psychology.

You’ve got studies on free stuffanalysis paralysis and free-trial conversion rate. As well as a million others that would fill the Library of Congress.

In this article, I’ve picked three that we’ve got solid results from at Process Street, and that I think will help make a big impact on your content marketing.

Optimizing your reading experience

If your blog’s design is hard to read and loads slowly because of all the flashy javascript, it might be worthswitching over to a minimal design that optimizes for readability. Pocket — an app that saves articles for you to read later — is the epitome of great reading experience. Check it out:

What are the characteristics?

  • Aesthetically pleasing line height (1.5em)
  • Serif typeface (evidence points to serif being easier to read)
  • Plenty of whitespace on either side
  • Progress bar on the top to show you how far down the page you are

Other blogs with excellent readability include ChargebeeHelp Scout and anything published on Medium.

The usability research consultancy firm Nielsen Norman Group found way back in 1997 that users read erratically on the web. Unlike the good old days of sitting down with a good book, users skip around, skim, and read sentences instead of paragraphs.

“In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.”

As writers, we need to help readers consume pages in the way they want to, no try to rewire them to think differently or give them something that tries to go against their expectations.

Jakob Nielsen recommends starting articles with the conclusion, breaking text down into subheadings and bullets, and front-loading text so that the most important idea comes in the first few words and the reader can decide if they want to continue, not missing anything vital if you skip.

Getting more subscribers with bonus content

We’ve all seen opt-in pop-ups in one form another. Whether we love them or hate them, there’s no denying they work (at least 1 time out of 100). There’s a better way, though. One that improves usability and conversion rate by not throwing random boxes at the reader. It’s bonus content, offered with a content upgrade trigger.

You’ve probably seen them around. The CTAs stick out from the main body of the text, and, when clicked, it launches an opt-in box offering content highly relevant to the post the reader is on. So, if the reader is on a guide about how to not give up on their diet, the content upgrade could be a cheatsheet of tasty, low calorie food delivered as a PDF in exchange for an email address.

Brian Dean explains concisely how to execute content upgrades in 5 steps:

Step 1: Find a high-traffic page on your site

Step 2: Identify a resource that would make the content better

Step 3: Create that resource

Step 4: Add the resource to your site

Step 5: Get more email subscribers

Here’s an example:

The best part is that content upgrades convert like crazy. While normal pop-ups have a conversion rate of around 1%, studies from  have found that content upgrades improve on that by 785%. Our own research at Process shows that content upgrades convert somewhere between 17 and 50 times better than generic, untargeted pop-ups. link

Why is this?

It’s because the reader expects the pop-up. They asked for the pop-up, so they’re very unlikely to just X off it straight away without reading it, which is what happens with regular pop-ups. It’s not a disruptive experience because the flow is click → pop-up → subscribe. It’s not scroll → pop-up → x.

It’s because you’re offering something relevant to the reader. Instead of offering them your free ebook, or your latest white paper that may or may not have anything to do with what they’re reading, you’re tapping into the reader’s current frame of mind and capitalizing on it.

It’s because it’s an offer, not just an ask. I’m sure there was a time where people were mad about subscribing to email newsletters. They wanted to fill up their newfangled email box machine with as many different emails as possible. Those days have come to an end, and while email clients used to excitedly announce ‘you’ve got mail!’, apps like Inbox now celebrate the fact that you’ve got no mail at all. If you want to market directly to a reader, you’re going to have to give them something first. And bonus content is the ideal offer.

Maximizing the amount of people who click through to your articles

Headlines are the classic copywriting problem. If 100% of users see it, only 20% click through. As Ogilvy says, “when you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”.

Now, I could explain a complete process for writing headlines, but the odds are if you’re reading this, you’re already pretty good at writing headlines. Instead, I want to go over some statistically proven techniques for improving headlines so you get a higher clickthrough rate. This technique works for all kinds of purposes, from email subjects to the opening lines of your articles.

  • Keep it to 8 words. Eight-word headlines perform 21% better than average.
  • Use a question word. It draws readers in.
  • Use numbers. Whether that’s list format or data-based, numbers give readers concrete expectations.
  • Test your headline! You can do this by setting one headline for the article, then A/B testing an emailwith a few variations of the subject line to see which gets higher CTR. Then just update the original headline. You can do this easily with Mailchimp.
  • Avoid hackneyed words like ‘magic’, ‘tip’, and ‘free’. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but these words have been proven to reduce CTR.

These methods aren’t manipulation. They just tap into the way people like to be treated. They want to be able to read content clearly, they want to choose when a pop-up appears and they want a headline to make an accurate promise of the article inside. By using these traffic-boosting methods, you’re treating your readers better which, in turn, makes a massive difference to your blog.