The Nudge is Mightier Than the Sword“The days of bludgeoning algorithms, networks and people are over. The future of content marketing, SEO and social media is the mighty nudge,” according to Rand Fishkin, CEO at SEOmoz.

We’ve learned ways to get the attention of search engines and push our websites to the top of the search results. And we’ve learned ways to leverage social media to get more likes and follows and links. We’ve mastered the flashing “Buy Now!” sign. Some of these tactics are aggressive and relentless and include interrupting the consumers we’re trying to court by buying, begging and bludgeoning for attention. And it worked.

At the recent New Media Expo, Fishkin offered up proof that nudge marketing works better and is becoming the way all the smart kids are getting Google to rank their pages; getting users to click their listings; getting tweeters to follow them; getting readers to share and repost their blogs; and getting Facebook fans to support them.

First: Don’t buy links, followers or fans. Don’t beg, either. And don’t be so intrusive and so insistent that you pursue customers and bludgeon them with your marketing.

15 Tips for Marketing Through Nudges

  1. Show Social Proof
    The power of following the leader is a nudge technique that brings great results. When you say things like “92% of Fortune 500s Use Box” you’re creating a desire on the part of your target audience to be like the majority of Fortune 500 companies. If they’re using Box, it must be good, right?
  2. Play the Name Game
    Aspirational naming converts better. What this means is that if you have multiple price points for a service or product you offer, try replacing the tired “Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum” with “Start, Grow, Connect and Enterprise”. Instead of describing the size (small, medium or large), use a name that describes the goal.
  3. Anchor Your Audience
    Since we read left to right, try listing your service packages or products with the most expensive on the far left and moving right to the lowest price. And highlight your “most popular” offer. This visual anchor gives the consumer context and makes the bigger prices more palatable.
  4. Limit Choice
    If, for example, you have 6 different icons on your web page for people to “share” what they’ve read, that’s too many. And if you’ve got them on your page multiple times, that’s even worse. Conversions actually go up when the choices are whittled down to a more manageable number. A/B testing has shown that fewer choices lead to more actions.
  5. Serve Up Behavioral Data
    Numbers, ratings, reviews, stars, percentages… these all nudge your consumer in the direction you want. More relevant data nudges decisions. If there is a certain action you want a person to make, letting them know that 75% of people chose action B helps nudge them to choose the same action.
  6. Remove Unnecessary Steps
    We’ve all filled out forms online and we know which ones we liked and which ones were so painful to fill out that we bailed. Simplifying the steps required to get a customer to fill out a form greatly increases the completion rate. This applies to any action you want a customer to take.
  7. Tap the Power of Reciprocation
    When you give something to someone, it creates the desire on their part to reciprocate. Give something free to nudge your potential customers to purchase, donate, or get involved.
  8. Familiarity Breeds Trust
    When faced with multiple options, consumers will choose the brand they recognize or are familiar with over brands they don’t. And they will pay attention to the comments and ratings of people they know more than people they don’t. This is where the importance of branding is critical.
  9. Use Data to Boost Ego
    Everyone likes to be told how smart they are or how influential. The website I Side With… allows you to take opinion quizzes and share them with your social connections. They show you how many people were influenced to take the quiz because of you. It’s a powerful motivator.
  10. Leverage the Power of Defaults
    Presenting some default options can help drive behavior. An example is a taxi that allows credit card payments and has pre-set tips you can add of 30%, 25% and 20%. Or you can use the numerical keypad to enter a tip amount of your choosing. Most people default to the middle button and end up adding a 25% tip to their cab fare! Make your desired action a default, and it makes it easier for people to do what you want them to do.
  11. Nudge Over Time, Not All At Once
    Multiple, shorter requests for action over time work better than a single, lengthy task list. A “To Do” list has more likelihood of getting worked if the tasks are assigned one at a time, over a period of time. This is one reason why lead nurturing has good results.
  12. Minimal Design With Single Target
    Especially true for landing pages, keeping it simple will increase conversions. When a visitor to your page sees one boldly highlighted action to take, there’s no confusion about what to do. And that makes it more likely that they will do it. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo DaVinci
  13. Promote Competition
    To increase participation, you can create a competitive environment and watch users jump in. The nudge principle here is that bragging rights rule.
  14. Gamification Can Create a Powerful Nudge
    Whether through competition or earning rewards and increasing status, gamification enhances user experience and increases user participation. Combined with nudge #7, reciprocation, getting users engaged through free game activity can result in viral sharing and increased conversions.
  15. Repetition and Modeling
    Contrary to what you may have been told, repetition in social and digital marketing is your friend. Just like conventional advertising, repetition helps with brand recognition and modeling helps you figure out the best times and best days to share and re-share your content so that you’re reaching the widest audience.

Slides for Rand’s presentation are available on

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