Your words are important. We might be visually stimulated when we look at web pages, but you are really important. In fact the words “you” and “yours” are amongst the most significant and important words to use online if you want engagement and if you want your content to go viral.
New research on the wording of headlines in popular blog posts and viral content shows that short words are the best – and if you exclude words like “the” or “it” you end up with “you”, “yours” and “people” being of significant importance.
The fact of the matter is that from a psychological perspective there are just two things we are interested in – ourselves and other people (preferably people like us). Is it any wonder that words such as “you” and “people” become important to engaging us online?
Yet when you look at blog posts on a variety of websites, these words are rarely used. There are plenty of headlines with company names, product names and random wordings, clearly gleaned from so-called keyword research. Yet, the data is clear – the most relevant and most important keywords are “you” and “your”.
So why don’t website owners use these words more often?
The answer to that is rather simple. Most website content is not written for a person. Instead, much website content is content for content’s sake. The writers do not envisage an individual reading their material.
A similar situation arises in videos. The popular online videos tend to be the ones that feel as though you are being spoken to as an individual.
Radio presenters know this of old. They know, for instance, when they say something like “our listeners” or “all the people out there” the listeners actually mentally switch off. But when the presenter says “you”, the listeners feel as though they are being addressed individually. No longer do they feel they are one of millions of listeners, instead they feel as though they are in a one-on-one with the presenter.
This applies online in text too. As I write this I am imagining that I am writing this for one person; I feel as though I am talking directly to you. Hopefully, you feel the same way – almost as though we are in conversation, having a chat about the words you and I use online.
When we make our website visitors feel like this, as though we are talking directly to them as individuals, that’s when we get true engagement.
It is also when we get most sharing. The research data on words used in headlines is clear – the most shared items are those which engage us as individuals.
So, how can you improve your website? Stop aiming it at millions of people. Instead focus on just one person and call them “you” a lot.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+