The Two Most Important Words in Blogging, Persuasion, and Copywriting

The Two Most Important Words in Blogging, Persuasion, and Copywriting

Reader Comments (244)

  1. Excellent Mike. You can’t help but end up telling a good story by using “you” extensively. It captivates the listener when you focus the point of the narrative on them.

    • One of my greatest struggle in writing is the “YOU”. I am a church minister and a preacher by career, and we are trained to use “WE” involving ourselves in preaching. And oh boy, it’s really a painful transition when it is already got embedded inside you.

      But I believe there’s always a room for improvement. Thanks a lot for this post Brian!!!

  2. I enjoy you because you give me a reason to smile and teach me something at the same time. You’ve also even given me an idea for a post for which I will credit you because you inspired it.

  3. This is on the money.

    For the “you” bit I tried to apply it to businesses and customers.

    It worked (with some tweaking).

    “Your business only benefits when your customers benefit first” has a nice ring to it.

  4. I wonder if it would work if you said:

    “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have brown eyes”

  5. Great post Brian! Am writing some online lessons at the moment and have been using ‘you’ and ‘we’. How does ‘we’ fit into this in your experience?

    That tip on ‘because’ is very interesting as well. I know myself – I always want to know why!

  6. How and why both teach me how to fish, what merely feeds me a fish dinner. You can tell me what to do, but I really need to know why I’m doing it, then I need to know how. Without knowing why and how, I have little chance of doing on my own whatever it is you told me to do.

    That’s the problem with the blogosphere and websites in general, too much what and not enough why and how. Or is it not a problem at all? Why and how cost money, it’s the intellectual property of what. What is the tease that makes you seek why and how.

    Copy that educates is more valuable than copy that instructs.

  7. Thanks everyone, love the feedback.

    David, I wonder too… do you think that may be pushing it a bit? I’d love to have that kind of data to see if “because” turns us into instant zombies upon utterance! 🙂

    Jim, that sounds like a resounding endorsement of the “reason why” from someone who ought to know.

  8. Brian: I think David’s sentence will work at least once, because most people will laugh.

    “Because” automatically grabs attention because that’s the way your mom used to say it. Everyone grows up not doing what they are asked by their parents. “Clean your room.” Mmm-hmmm. You’re not listening.

    But you know that as soon as your mom says “because …” that you have to and respond to it, and that means paying attention.

    And that means that you have changed from being a personless utterance of no particular significance to a person that should be deferred to out of politeness, at the very least.

    Chances are that they didn’t even hear what you said after the word “because”. They were on “not listening” autopilot before the word, and on “deferring” autopilot after.

    The other 7% who wouldn’t let this person use the copier were probably people who have been told that getting ahead means never giving in to other people.

    Anyway, a nice post. Thanks,
    Yehuda

  9. nice example with this copy machine, would be also itneresting to see some more details about it, number of respondents, gender, etc…

  10. Martin, here’s the citation for the study:

    Langer, Blank & Chanowitz (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of “placebic” information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 635-642.

  11. Changing your posts from the first person to the third person (and disguising your identity) can sometimes be the answer to eliminating “I” from appearing so many times. It also puts more emphasis on telling the story than it does on you as the expert.

    Why should you try this? Because…:-)

  12. DCB, I doubt very seriously that “we’ve all” read Cialdini’s book “Influence: Science and Practice”, although we all should.

    The opposite of “specificity” is a generalization, which you just provided us with.  Generalizations make it very difficult to make a credible point, which is why specifity is so important in persuasive writing.

  13. Nice post Brian.
    I think it really works. I experienced this situation in real life when I was in a queue and had to get the train reservation fast so I asked some 4-5 guys in front of me to let me take the ticket first because my train was about to leave in few minutes. It worked.

    And yes.. thank you Darren for pointing me to this page.

  14. If you’re “regurgitating” Cialdini , I’m glad, because I don’t have the time right now to read it. Until I do, keep it up! It works for me.

    (Not that I really think you are just regurgitating.)

    Thanks!

  15. Cialdini’s book is an excellent source for actual psychological and sociological studies that back up some of the things I recommend here.

    In other words, it allows me to give very authoritative “reasons why” these tips might work for you. 🙂

  16. I always felt uncomfortable when using “you” because it did sound to direct to me. Maybe it felt like this because English is not my mother tongue.

    But now I learned a lot, in only two words. Thanks.

  17. This post is already a raging success, and with good reason. One thing I’d like to know, however, is how long you spent constructing the intro paragraphs.

  18. Chris, the original premise for the opening came just about immediately upon sitting down to write, but I spent a lot of time tweaking it.

    As your question indicates you know, the headline and the first 50 words are the most important.

  19. Good to be reminded of these two gems from well known sales gurus. Everyone listens to WIIFM BECAUSE it is the best!

  20. Man, I feel like I am reading “fastseduction.com” or one of those websites on how you should read docs like this because with the knowledge-you too can pick up women. Makes my brain melt. When do you cross the line between this and attempted brainwashing?

  21. Great post man. “you” will bring readers closer to the blogger. “because” will give the readers the answers behind the question.

    You are great because you rock!

  22. Great advice. I’m always saying I, I, I in my blogs–well, I do a lot when I could say “you” anyway.

    Cheers,

    JP

  23. Brian, I read YOU regularly BECAUSE you are a consistently clear, logical, and informative writer 🙂 Thanks for the great advice. Now where did I put those fake blue contact lenses…

  24. The volume of the comments, Brian, shows how this post just stands out from the crowd. I push the notion of customer-centric relentlessly so it wasn’t hard to figure that YOU was one of the two words.

    BECAUSE wasn’t so obvious. However again trying to meet customers’ needs is a tenet of good marketing. Because seems to signal that your needs may well be met here. Again it causes the post to stand out from the crowd.

    Congratulations and thanks for the insight.

  25. You provided some timely information, because the lemurs are hungry for the flesh of the innocent.

    (just wanted to see if this held true for comments.)

  26. Heh, Ike, I think so… but in any event, that’s some colorful descriptive writing you’ve got following the “because.” You probably write great headlines. 🙂

  27. hey brian,

    gud job man, i really refered this link to my Marketing and PR department here, i think according to the marketing point of view following ur guidlines will work out like magic., anyways i enjoyed reading ur posts 🙂

  28. Great post. I came over here from Problogger “because” I was intrigued by the headline. I knew about using the “you” but hadn’t considered the because. I will now though – because you recommended it. Thank you.

  29. Hi Brian,

    As your previous comments suggest it doesn’t matter that your post is based on research described in Robert Cialdini’s great book “Influence: Science and Practice?.

    There are too many great books for us to read them all.

    So just by pulling out useful tips for people you’re providing a great service.

    Keep it up

    Jim

  30. Thanks for offering this tip. I knew about “you”, but did not know about “because”. Wow – the power of words, eh? It’s the difference between people who make money and those who don’t…

  31. Thank you, Brian. Simple facts, read in two minutes, and worth far more than an expensive two-day training course. Although my own ‘blogging is not market-orientated, I will certainly consider this in future.

  32. I am reminded from my own experience notinsofar as failing to google up my very own antonym of the word cause prefaced by the word be, that there is no u and i in team but there is a me.

    ;-O

  33. Great points. I’m a little concerned for my company’s blog, because we actively avoid using ‘I’ and ‘you’ and push ‘we’ and ‘us’. One of our goals is to create a community, and we thought that using ‘we’ would help with that.

    Do you think we’re doing ourselves a disservice?

    If you read this, please respond, because I need to fix our blog if it’s in fact broken.

    Scott

  34. Hi Scott. I like “we” and “us” a lot for community sites. In fact I use both words quite a bit on Copyblogger.

    The real point of the word “you” is to make sure you are focusing outward to others, rather than constantly talking about yourself or your company. Checking your copy for the number of “I” “me” etc is just a handy way to remind us that we might not be properly focused on the reader or prospect. 🙂

  35. Thanks! I’ll definetly use theese words more, because you’re advice has proven to be great!

    Just subscribed, by the way. Keep on writing! 🙂

  36. I had heard about because a long time ago and forgotten all about it. Thanks for a great post to point out how important it is.
    Also, in the Wizard of Oz they go to see the Wizard…because.
    James

  37. How true!
    We have to remember to listen to our readers and interact with them accordingly. It is not so easy all the time, I guess, because sometimes we tend to talk more about ourselves. Sometimes, not everyone who reads our blog would interact.

    I think your insights are great and it’s what keeps me going back to the older entries of your blog 🙂

  38. Actually I did not find the first sentence compelling, because it sounded just like all those long ads I often read.

    I liked the “harsh reality” sentence, because you expressed something that frustrates me about the lack of ettiquette on the internet.

    “Because” is intertesting to me, because I found, in life, when you give someone a reason, people often use the information to “overcome” objections. I am going to start noticing everytime I comply with a request, because they said, “because”.

    Thank you for sharing.

  39. Interesting article. I don’t know why I didn’t think of using the basics of a good sales copy in my daily posts. I can really see how this would help increase blog loyalty and traffic.

  40. Robert Cialdini’s book is worth re-reading because it is focused on explaining why you do the things you do. It fascinated me thoroughly when I picked it up – maybe because I am curious about how things work particularly socially. Robert’s book also teaches you how you can avoid being ‘sold’ unscrupulously by glib salesmen/saleswomen. A book that’s a must-read and must-buy for anyone interested in marketing.

  41. Hi,
    I’m a reader of your blog, so I do hope that you’are agree about my translation of your interesting post. The source is quoted at the end of my post.

  42. Really very important words not only in blogging but in real life also.

    Explain to some one what are you in need of before requesting a help.

    Nice tip and thank you.

  43. I would never have thought 2 common words as these could create such and impact on persuation until i had it explained to me like this.

    I will be trying this out soon i just thought of some ways i can use it and have already been using “you” already (with out knowing) that has yeilded some good results.

    Great advice thanks

  44. These little tricks can make a huge difference. It’s the same thing as including a list in your headline or alluding to the negative rather than the positive. In a recent study, the most successful email subject line was “bad news …” and the most successful online dating headline was “need a date …”. All lower case, simple and direct. Using “you” and “because” simply addresses your comments directly to your reader and there are countless other examples. Click my name to receive a detailed 52-step marketing strategy that incorporates dozens of these little tricks to generate more buzz about your business and traffic to your website.

  45. The info on using the word ‘because’ was very interesting. I’ll have to think about that next time I’m writing a post. Regarding the ‘you’…that is rule #1 for me. Glad to see you call it out here.

  46. Simple but compelling opening my friend. The word you has a strong psychological impact I believe. Psychology of the mind controls people, don’t you think?

  47. According to my marketing mentors, the most important words are FREE and Money (or the dollar logo) for results.

    I like YOU and Because you were nice enough to post a great blog post, and I’m going to try your advice.
    Maybe you’re my new mentor.
    I don’t own a “Lambo” yet, so maybe I’ve been listening to the wrong people.
    thanks,
    Chris@LetsGoBanners.com

  48. Nothing has change the results and feedback I get from my readers, than using words like you and talking to them on a personal level. You really have to connect with your audience in order to grow your following. People want to be spoken to, not talked at!

  49. Good point. I’ll have to go back and start doing word counts and comparing the ratio of I’s to you’s. The ‘because’ part is also important. The online world can be very confusing to new online MLM marketers, and I found that when I first started writing the blog I made a lot of assumptions of what people already knew. Because of these assumptions, I lost a lot of readers who didn’t know why I suggested some of the tips I did. Going back and writing smaller posts that clarified the “because” part of the equation has helped my readers receive better value. As always, you deliver solid value in this post. And no, I could not figure out the two most important words in the first sentence of the post without reading on. Hmm…

  50. I was so pleased to stumble upon this post because I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the use of the word “you” in the blogs I read.

    I often use “you” (especially without an “I” in the post) as an indicator of a weak message. Maybe it’s just me… I like stories. I like hearing what people can teach me from their own experiences, and to be valid, I need to see the word “I.”

    I use the lack of the word “I” as an indicator that I must immediately unsubscribe to a blog– especially when the writer is under 30 years old.

    I think this is for two reasons: First, I think bloggers using too much “you” often slide into a tone that assumes a dumb reader. As a reader, I don’t want to be assumed unintelligent. I don’t think anyone does (even if they really are dumb) ALSO (second) several “you” blogs, it seems, don’t offer much that’s interesting without a supporting message. For instance, how many times have you seen the blog post, “10 ways to get fired from your job?” They say things like, “swear at work,” “call your boss bad names to his face,” “blow off work,” etc.

    Perhaps I’m crazy, but I think “you” has extreme effects. When used in a blog like yours, I think “I like this. Good lesson.” When used in the majority of blogs by those who have not proven their own validity, “you” makes me think you (the person pointing the finger at me) are stupid. Am I the only one?

    Oh well, to each his own, I guess.

  51. What a fascinating and worrisome article. I have been writing posts on my blog from the “I” perspective because of several reasons: 1) Many bloggers say to share as much of yourself as you can, 2) I don’t want to put myself up as an expert when I’m really just trying to share my own experience, and 3) “You” can often sound know-it-all-y, as Colleen says above.

    Am I off-base? Am I being more alienating by putting everything in my own perspective, rather than in 2nd or 3rd person? I appreciate any advice you can offer!

  52. ‘YOU’ wrote this article ‘BECAUSE’ ‘YOU’ are the best! 😉
    (confused? That’s what I can say about this blog now!)
    🙂

  53. Very interesting and as always, clear, concise and well-written. So what if you are writing reviews on products and books? I write a lot of book blogs and also about my yoga experience. My goal is to help others through my perspective and sharing my thoughts. Is it disengaging to speak in 1st person in that regard?

  54. These tips are awesome. I am learning so much. This will help me in my writings. I think I will always have to come here for inspiration.

    Thanks,

    Brett

  55. Thanks for the tips you sure know how to make a great article. You don’t really realise how powerful two little words could be because really, you don’t focus on them a lot individually.
    Cheers.

  56. Two simple words. Well done! Indeed I prefer the world “you” because it shows immediacy among me (author) and the reader.

    By the way I did use “you” and “because” in the phrase above…

  57. Great advice. I’m always saying I, I, I in my blogs–well, I do a lot when I could say “you? anyway.

    Cheers,

  58. This is very interesting.. It is definitely giving me a new perspective on writing for blogs. Till this point most of my posts were very formal and were about the industry.

    From now on, I think it is a good idea for me to write about my experiences and give people reasons.

    Much appreciated!

  59. You are absolutely right about the common use of you, and anything that sound like it. Possession is the key to advertisement because it’s quite obvious both of you are there for the pitch.
    If you happen to experiment with google-trends, you can research keywords to look for the most powerful word on the web. Amazingly, the graphs show that You is by far the most powerful word on the internet, try it.

  60. In my other life I had to ask people to do things and I always made it a point to say why I wanted these things done i.e because….

    It works and is extremely effective.

    I never occurred to me to use it when I write post!

    Many thanks, Brian. A lesson well learned.

    Great post.

    Dave

  61. This is really an awesome information. Now I realize that it’s totally different from preaching. In preaching, we use the word “WE”. This tells the listeners that the preacher is involve in such commitment, trial, problem, encouragement, etc.

    In blogging, the most important word is “YOU”. Wow, this is really a great info. I just hope that I will develop a professional copy blogger soon.

    I am enjoying your blog a lot. Thank you for all the help!!!

  62. Thanks Brian
    You are a magician because you opened my eyes to the importance of directing my writing to the end user , You 🙂
    Isnt this another form of benefit selling?, What you will get out of it.
    Thanks again for another great post

  63. I just did my first intentional “you + because” post. Due out later today.

    You know why I did it? It was because of you 😉

    I love your site by the way. Keep up the excellent work.

  64. Thanks for this. You made me feel hopeful because you told me about something new that’s been shown to work.

  65. DANG, this is my first visit to your blog, and I am so freaking impressed! Never have I been so interested in so many posts on a first-time visit, I’ll definitely be back, this is great.

  66. 1. I teach my students to avoid using the word ‘you’ in their expository prose. But marketing copy is a whole ‘nother world. It’s the opposite of what I teach in Freshman Composition.
    And I even explain that to my students when they say, “but you use ‘you’ all the time. Not in my essays, but in my blog posts – for sure.

    2. I heard about this experiment – it’s hilarious. “May I please use the fax machine, because I didn’t have a good breakfast this morning?” “Oh, sure. Go ahead.”

  67. Its funny that I stumbled onto this post again years later when trying to figure out a new writing style that may better fit my personal finance blog. One thing people should note is that the tone and language you use should depend on the type of content you’re writing.

    If you’re writing a how-to guide, and informative post to educate on certain subjects, applying “you” and “because” liberally will of course be effective.

    If you’re writing an anecdote story, “you” and “because” can still work well, depending on how effective of a writer you are — but there’s also nothing wrong with using plenty of “I.” Again, this depends on the type of content and audience you have, but don’t forget that you may have a following because people care about your story, not the way you present them random factoid.

    Apply on internet advice accordingly to your situation 🙂

  68. Thank you because you have just taught me two words that I can use in communicating my message.

    I will keep on coming back because you have great content.

  69. Great and terse information! I already knew about the power of “you”, but never thought about “because” being so effective in persuasion, even though I use it a lot without giving thought to it. It’s just a natural way of how I write, but now that I know, I will be consciously aware of it and use it more often thanks to you.

  70. Thank you for “YOU” and “BECAUSE”. My blog is running for almost a year now but until i read this article, i was not aware that the power of those two words are very important in blogging.

    I will be will changing the voice of my articles now. Thank you once again and more power!

  71. This is great – “you”, or talking about the other person, always adds interest. It even works in regular conversation. The person you are talking to walks away feeling like it was a great conversation, because they did all the talking.

    I need to work on using “because”, though. People always like to know why something happens. It is good to just come right out and say it.

  72. A four year old post… but it still rings true up to now.

    It is an art form. Without the reader in mind, it will be hard to create a dialogue in this Me world of blogging.

  73. I just discovered this post…I did a similar one recently, but my two words were “Why” — as in ‘ask yourself why you’re writing this. Who is the audience? What are their needs’?

    And “No” — as in ‘just say no to slave-wage blogging gigs.’

  74. Interesting article… I don’t have any idea yet how to add more ‘you’ to my blog (a site just consisting of titles of my favorite songs), but I’m thinking about it. 🙂

  75. I try to be specific and make solid points (sort of like reasons) in my writing for my website. The bottom line is explaining what I am trying to cover in a clear and unambiguous manner. I had never analyzed the use of the word ‘because’ but that is so interesting that just the offering of a reason (regardless of the actual reason) is enough to bring the reader into attention. I have to keep in mind the first word ‘you’. I tend not to address the reader specifically and I can see how this is less engaging. I need to write like I am explaining directly to the reader. Can you tell me the third most important word? 🙂

  76. hey that’s a pretty good tip!

    I’ve been using “you” when I could, mainly in the end of my blog posts, but I should take a look at how frequently I use it throughout. The “because” is also something I should look into.

    Good stuff.

  77. Wow, the power of words!

    I have always been fascinated by them and their staying power over the long haul all my life. Brian, you wrote this post almost 5 years ago, and it is only today that I found it. And I’m sure it impacted me today, 5 years and 215 comments later, as much as it did the people who first read it in April 2006.

    I’m a 60 year-old veteran web developer who after 11 years of working with our own in-house cms has recently jumped with both feet into the WordPress CMS, blogging and social media pool. Talk about information overload!!! Well, I’m happy to report that it’s not true that you can’t teach old dog new tricks – you can! It’s just that we get a little more breathless and need a few more barin breaks. But with article like yours, and amazing site like Coppyblogger theere is hope. I’m a Genesis platform guys and I follow Brian Gardner on Twitter (also something brand new to me), and when he recommended people follow Coppyblogger, I did.

  78. This is the best advice I’ve found so far in my recent research on blogging! I know “you” is a great “power word”.

    I actually used that word as part of my classroom control strategy (a retired teacher here – but not a retired person) and it worked VERY well. I can see how “because” is another “power word” – so I will be looking more closely at using it and assessing the results. I’m not a blogger, but am investigating the prospect.

  79. you are right Brian! many a times we write loads and loads of articles filled with possessive verb and we forget to stress the reason, or importance of doing what we are talking about. Most times our “Because are just too weak”.

  80. Just wanted to let you know that this has been one of the best advices given to me in the past 5 years… After trying the use of ‘because’ in my copyrighting (starting with my papers at University) i started using it in real life…

    On a daily base I save myself endless cues in supermarkets, bathroom cues, stores etc…

    I even managed to pass a 10 man queue in a Music Store by saying: Please, would you mind if I pass because I hate waiting. 😛

    Thumbs up and keep on writing!

  81. Great post Brian! Am writing some online lessons at the moment and have been using ‘you’ and ‘we’. How does ‘we’ fit into this in your experience?

    That tip on ‘because’ is very interesting as well. I know myself – I always want to know why!

  82. Amazing! Simply amazing. I already know that YOU is the most important word but I didn’t know that BECAUSE is a powerful word, too. Thanks for the information. This is very helpful for me.

  83. Let’s not forget the importance of the word ‘How’. Just like ‘because’ focuses on ‘why’ something is important, ‘How’ describes a solution to a problem. I have found ‘How to do something’ to be a common theme for content on successful blogs across all niches.

  84. I read this years ago, but it was just as compelling to read this time around! So simple but yet so effective! Love these kind of posts! Because of you, I’m a better blogger!

  85. Love this scientific approach to word use.

    It reminds me of a discovery that DC comics made in the 1950s: every time a comic book had a gorilla on the cover, sales went up.>/strong> They didn’t question the result. They put gorillas on comic covers! The Flash even developed a super intelligent gorilla arch enemy, Grodd, which provided multiple opportunities for readers to see more gorillas on comic book covers.

    If the words “why” and “because” work like a gorilla, why not use them in headlines?

  86. I happen to revisit this page and was reminded on the use of the two words. I immediately changed the copywriting for my new website to use “you” and “because”. What a difference. How did I forget?

  87. I read a whole bunch of articles on Copyblogger, but this one made my head explode. So ingeniously simple. Can’t wait to use this advice in my future posts.

    I’ll practice here…

    You made my head explode because this article is so insightful and clever! ♥

  88. I’m always surprised how many business websites, advertisements and blogs etc, don’t use reader centric language. There’s far too much “this is what we do” and nowhere near enough “you’ll love this because” out there. It should be common sense, but sadly it’s not.

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