Thursday, July 14, 2005

Key Psychology for Memorable Headlines and Lists

The human brain reacts to a phenomenon psychologists call primacy and recency. That's fancy-speak for how we remember what we were told first (primacy) and what we heard last (recency).

This is an important concept to remember when building bullet lists, writing headlines or constructing titles for eBay listings or a Web page you expect to appear in Google search return results.

For example, let's say you have some charm bracelets to sell on eBay and on Froogle (Google's commerce search engine). First of all, you know that your description title (or the name of your Web page for the particular item) is going to come up next to a bunch of other search results on both eBay and Froogle. Second, you know that if you stand out, you'll stand to gain more bids or sales. So, how do you stand out and connect with customer desires using primacy and recency?

Let's look at a couple of title examples from eBay. One says, "Silver Bracelet Charm Wishbone Shape Low Price." Another says, "Toggle Charm Bracelet w/ Blue Flower Charm." Which is better? Let me tell you the problems I have with the 2nd one. They used the word 'charm' twice, wasting some character space. But it also wasted the recency factor by placing 'charm' in the final spot. The searchers knew they were looking for charms, because they put that term in the search field. As shoppers scan results they'll see a lot of items that end in charm. Those items tend to blur together.

Listings like the first one stand out. And they stand out with a benefit -- Low Price! The first one also takes advantage of primacy by listing a feature or descriptive term first -- "Silver." Again the item is set apart from the other listings this way. Silver connotes an added benefit, as well.

These two titles aren't perfect. They both could have used the word 'jewelry' to gather more shoppers via search. But the first one is by far the better title when it comes to primacy and recency.

This is an important concept to remember when developing any kind of list, too (in a brochure, a white paper, presentation, etc.). Put things you want the person remember in the first and last positions. If you survey your audience you'll notice that those get remembered the most.

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Amazon.com and Walmart.com have the lowest prices for "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

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