Do Not Read This
Reverse psychology, or getting another person to do what you want by asking for the opposite, can be a neat trick, if done well. You’re reading, right?
Examples of reverse psychology in the wild
In 1975, Freddie Mercury wrote and recorded Bohemian Rhapsody, a song that ran six minutes – unusually long for a song.
By now it is one of the greatest hits of all times. In 1975 he knew though it was going to be tricky to get radio stations to play it in its entirety.
Unsure what to do, Freddie sent a copy to a DJ friend, asking for advice on the length (cut it or not), but sent along strict instructions “Do NOT broadcast this.” Think he was onto something?
More recently, this type of negative word play has been appearing on the Web. Earlier this year, Search Engine Land had a tab that said “Don’t click here.”
Of COURSE I clicked, and was met with: “We’ve got something shiny and cool coming here in early July.”
The content was a teaser, piquing curiosity, and it worked. For a period of 20 days in May/June 2007, 1713 people clicked on the link;
How to follow the rules like everybody else
Why don’t more people use this technique on the Web? Probably because we’re afraid. See, those of us that write on the Web accept the basic rules of writing;
- use the active voice
- write in plain English
- use personal pronouns
- present tense
- positive rather than negative words…
We want people to enjoy our writing, so we tend to go with the flow rather than try for something different – but “something different” is exactly what SEO 2.0 is all about.
Bloggers who successfully used irony in headlines
You can’t help but smile when you read Yvonne Russell’s list of how to comment on blog posts.
Titled “Tips to Make Other Bloggers Hate You – Comment Crazy” it tells you what you shouldn’t do when you comment on posts.
It works because there are hundreds of blog posts out there titled “How to comment on blogs.”
This one throws in a free giggle. My favorite line: “Never reply to comments at your blog – you are far too busy.”
Web Analytics is hard; getting your head around it is much easier with a smile on your face.
“21 Reasons Why You Do NOT Need Web Analytics,” from Web Analytics World, gives you some insight without overloading your brain.
My favorite is number 3: “Most popular products? Who cares, you already know what your customers want.”
On a more practical level, Jonathan Kranz uses reverse psychology in screening potential clients: “10 Reasons NOT to Hire Me” is a comical, yet witty look at his work ethic.
The headline makes you want to read it, the comical slant makes it easier to read, but his values are clearly defined.
The fresh approach to be smarter than average
There is freshness in this approach – you know what you’re getting yourself in for, and he knows you have similar goals.
SEO 2.0 is all about working smarter, not harder, so if you haven’t given this technique any thought before, why not give it a shot; just make sure you do it right:
- Remember, everything in moderation. You shouldn’t do this often; rather, keep it for that really brilliant post you’ve been thinking about. Then get it out to social networking sites.
- Write compelling content. Don’t just put a title up there, it’s not enough. There is no point in bringing people to your site if they are met with nothing. Think of Freddy Mercury – give them something great.
- Have fun with it. If you have an idea for a terrific story, try playing with the words so your visitors can smile – even laugh – while they learn.
- Arouse curiosity. Like Danny, give your readers something to look forward to; but always, always deliver.
- Don’t be sneaky!
This is a contribution by the fabulous Lidija Davis. Thank you Lidija!
Last updated: April 9th, 2018. I changed the teaser image and added more line breaks, white space and text formatting.
[…] did my first guest post […]
Good write up on an old technique that still works today. It works because it stops people and makes them think. It sucked me in.
Yeah, in fact I used it too already, without knowing what I’m doing ;-) :
Remember this dark chapter Lyndon? Hehe.
It’s funny isn’t it – because really it’s basic journalism – hook the reader – and yet, when I see journalists move over to the Web, they seem to change a bit – some go overboard; totally conservative. And that’s a shame.
But true – there are many old faithfuls that still work a treat! :)
Amazing great post. At one level I believe we all know this but did not realise it’s potential until its been put bluntly in your post. I will be thinking of a way to use this technique to draw more click throughs
Lidija, true knowledge from the past has to be preserved and transferred to new contexts.
david: Some things we know must be named so that we know them consciously.
Skellie: Tadeusz is also slavic! But I think it’s useless to put this method into practice on Skelliewag. You’re already probably the most popular blog upstarter of 2007. How can you top that?
Btw. I was chosen by the guest poster! In German we say: Like you shout into the woods, so it it echoes :-)
Sadly the issue on SU is still not settled…
Loved this. Lidija is one of my favorite names, too — Slavic spelling rocks. Now I just need to work out how I can put this technique to work on Skelliewag…
Good choice of guest-poster, Tad :). Hope things are going better on SU.
Good one, Lidija – I used something similar earlier on my blog and it got more than its fair share of curious readers. Always works if done right.
This is an extremely smart post. Thanks Lidija!
Reminds me of a business card I had received. It said: Don’t flip this over.
The flip side said: The bad news is that you don’t take directions well. The good news is that we like rebels. Get a FREE appetizer at [Restaurant].
Lyndon: Thanks for the kind words – although I got worried seeing the “sucked in” part – hope it was useful too… :-/
Tad: I’m willing to bet it worked a treat! Also, you should explore that German saying more. Always, the more successful bloggers invite comments and reactions, it IS the SEO 2.0 way!
Also, love, love, love how you introduced it on Sphinn :-D
David: Thanks. Boy – you could do lots! And, it could be so much fun: “How to make sure you ruin the first date” Think of the movie – How to lose a guy in 30 days – everyone wanted to see it…
Skellie: Thank you! I LOVE that some of the most brilliant bloggers are out of Australia – Melb too – but then, I always guessed we had it all over the US ;) – now I know. I’m homesick though…
Sadly, I have to disagree with Tad in part. Absolutely you have a fantastic blog, but it never hurts to occasionally have a play ;) – also, you can top it – your ‘Ask Skellie’ series will be perfect!
BTW – If you ever need a guest poster – I know this really cute Slavic domestic goddess from the land Down Under who is pretty decent ;)
YC: Thank you. Yep, it always works, but I’ve seen some shockers that don’t deliver, and that is not fair. Do it right, don’t abuse it, and you’ve got a little wish fairy you can pick up and use when you need to.
Ankesh: Thanks! Occasionally smart, often wrong, but never in doubt ;)
I’ve seen it used in many places – I use it occasionally on my little people. “NO, No… don’t do your homework, go get your gameboy” – and guess what? Each and every time, they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind, but I get their attention, and they always end up doing homework :) (they are 7 and 8)
Tad: Thank you!
…eight – cute shortcut though
[…] Lidija Davis of BlogWell guest blogged on SEO 2.0 – it’s a great post about many things, in particular a nifty technique that gets you more click-throughs if done well and with good intentions. If you do not wish to learn, do not read it. […]
So, I did not read the post. What’s next? :-)
oliver: Now follow the link I posted in the third comment ;-)
Great tips! I need to try some of these out.
That was a very interesting article you wrote, and you are right this reverse Psyccology works. I might try that on my blog. By the way are you ever going to find time to edit my book?
[…] you want your readers to actually read it. I will be honest with you, I actually got this idea from SEO 2.0’s post called Do Not Read This. But to show you how it really works, I just had to post up my […]