Way back in 1993, long before any of us were optimizing sites, Robert Cialdini published a book titled "Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion". This book broke ground by explaining that the magic of persuasion was really more "science" than magic. His premise was that by understanding six persuasion principles, any of us can LEARN to persuade others to do what we wish them to do...link to us, buy from us, etc. At every step of our search marketing strategy, our goal is to get someone to do something. So I thought it would be interesting to take each of these six "weapons of influence", as he refers to them, and apply them to search marketing.
- Liking: People are easily influenced by people whom they like. By creating similarity bonds, discovering common interests, and using charm and praise, you'll more likely achieve compliance.
This just screams Web 2.0 / social media optimization. This is where communities come into play. Become an active member of a community in your niche. Don't jump in with a sales pitch. Be charming, friendly, and just "one of the gang". First, be likable.
- Reciprocity: People pay in kind. Cialdini likes to use the example of the Disabled American Veterans discovering that their donation response rate doubled once they began enclosing free personalized address labels in their solicitations.
We all know that giving something away for free just works. Whatever it is...a white paper, gift, download, tool, widget, newsletter, sample...give it away. Something that is only worth a small sum can repay for itself many times over, in various ways. Links, purchases, and email addresses can all be obtained this way.
- Social Proof: People follow the lead of peers. Rather than expecting them to believe YOU, let them hear the same thing from one of their peers.
Convince just one of a community's "respected elders" to recommend your product, and you've got a potential landslide of followers. This elder might be a forum leader or a blogger. If getting that person to give you a free recommendation isn't working, consider utilizing reciprocity with him or her. Give them a free product to try, or simply pay them to review it.
- Consistency: A person who voluntarily commits to something, even just a little, will almost always follow through.
Cialdini determined that if someone had committed to buy a particular product, almost nothing could deter them from purchasing it - even upping the price. There are many ways we can get some form of commitment from others. Let's say you want to obtain several high-quality links from the leaders of your niche. Ask them to participate in a group interview, in which each of them would lend their expertise to several questions. Using the Social Proof principle, once you get a "yes" from one, you'll likely get "yes's from the other" (assuming you were smart enough to inform them that their peers would be participating). Getting them to agree (in writing via email, for example), will almost always mean that they will follow through. Once they do, it will be almost certain that all of them will end up linking to the group interview that you have on your site.
- Authority: When faced with decisions that involve research or specialized information, people will generally accept the opinion of experts who provide them with a shortcut answer.
Make sure you establish your expertise, by showing that you've solved similar problems in the past. Testimonials are a good way of accomplishing this. Once you can show that you are an authority in your niche, your recommendations (even of your own product) will hold more weight.
- Scarcity: Human nature makes it extremely difficult to resist being only one of a select few to own something.
Looking for links? Planning on using the Reciprocity principle to give something away? Consider doing this occasionally with either a time limit, or a downloads limit. A contest always has a time limit, and requiring a link as one of the rules of the contest is one example of this. Another idea might be to give away a widget to the first 10 people who agree to review the widget (which of course would require a link back to the widget). Whether you limit the amount of "things" in stock, or the amount of people who can get the "things", or the amount of time the "things" will be available, people will want to be one of the few to get their hands on the "thing". And of course, if you are selling widgets, you can always use the limited quantity/limited time sale tactic.
Those are the basics of Robert Cialdini's Persuasion Principles, but if you want to read more, you can get his works in many forms. The quickest and simplest is to purchase an instant download of his article "Harnessing the Science of Persuasion (HBR OnPoint Enhanced Edition)" from the Harvard Business Review. He also has many books such as "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)" that have evolved since his first publication which go into even further detail.
I'd love to hear some of your brainstorming ideas that could utilize any or all of these principles. Keep in mind that the more of these that you use in conjunction with each other, the better response rate you will have. My goal is to try to incorporate these principles as often as possible, especially when seeking to obtain HQBLs (High Quality BackLinks).
Tip o' the hat to Internet Influence Magic for introducing me to these principles, and where you can learn even more about them.
Participating in the Home Based Business Group Writing Project
15 thoughts on “Search Marketing and The Persuasion Principles”
Great reference, Donna.
Really great information you have provided here… Thanks!
SEO Specialist – Citysearch
I am particularly big on the authority, consistency, and scarcity angles. Giving something away constantly diminishes one’s authority while authority comes from consistently articulating your position.
I particularly agree with #5 😉 Great post, definitely a keeper 🙂
Thank you for the insight. As a website designer I find clients who want a desired response need to evaluate what will get that response from thier site. They tend to want to tell all about themselves and expect that to do it.!
Very interesting concept, and I notice that a lot of the US Internet sellers use very strong and organised prose to pretty much this effect. However, its usually a bit overpowering to a British eye, so what I try to do is to emulate this style, but water it down just enough to make it palatable to my localised market – very difficult task and I know that I have a tendancy in my prose to err too far in either direction sometimes.
Its a tough rhetorical quagmire to get yourself into when trying to be a pal, and authority, the source of something free etc etc all at the same time – all a matter of getting the tone, register and orientation to the domain (place/social group etc) you are addressing just right.
I think as the Internet matures we’ll all get better at it over time, after all it took the earliest writers for print a good century or so (at least), to find their feet (in my opinion anyway).
Terrific article, and I’m always looking for a good book to read. I haven’t read anything by Robert Cialdini, but will certainly add him to my reading wish list.
I’m trying to fill my scarce free time with better brain input. That includes reading non-fiction and listening to books on CD in the car whenever I need to drive. I also listen to books on CD or podcasts of interest when doing dishes, folding laundry or even sweeping and mopping. More good content and less mindless drivel are making a positive impact on my life.
If you’re interested in a cool way to get quality one-way back links, visit my blog (above) and see the article entitled “Easily Create One-Way Backlinks”. It’s amazing how this works!
Consistency is the main thing for me i guess … its like we have to be consistent or we might fail ourselves
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