Improving click-through rates: Three psychological approaches

In this piece, Hardik Oza explores three principles of psychology that will dramatically improve your click-through rate.

There are many ways of improving your digital performance. A study by Smart Insights shows that 20 per cent of businesses think content marketing will have the largest impact on their digital business in 2018. However, just behind, at 14 per cent, is using big data. Big data can be used for so many benefits, but one of them is increasing your click-through rates (CTR).

Your CTR should show you how useful searchers find your advert or organic listing. A really quick fix for growth is to improve your CTR. If you can increase your click-through rate, you benefit from more traffic, more orders and more revenue. It can even increase your AdWords quality score, which means you can pay less per click, or get greater exposure.

But how can you do this? What tips and tricks are there to ensure that your advert gets a high click-through rate? Advertisers use many methods and it varies from person to person. However, every digital marketer should pay attention to basic elements of human psychology if they want their CTR to increase. There are various psychological principles that will encourage someone to click on an advert. In this piece, I’m going to explore three principles of psychology that will dramatically improve your click-through rate.

Past experiences affect current experiences

A basic principle of psychology is that your past experiences will affect your current experiences. If something happened to you in the past, it determines your future subconscious decision making.

Let me break things down for you with a simple example. Imagine a crossing a road for the first time. They have no idea what to do, so they begin to walk out in front of cars. The parent stops the child and tells them it’s dangerous and you should look both ways. The next time the child goes to cross the road, they draw on that experience and looks both ways without having to be told.

It’s easy to apply this principle to online advertising to increase click through rates. Someone is more likely to click on an advert if it’s similar to something they’ve seen before. Or, if it reminds them of a past experience. Luckily, you can use Google Adwords to target your ads at people that have used your website before – this is called remarketing. This increases the chances of someone clicking on your ad, and should also increase the conversion rate once they visit your site.

We do things for people that do things for us

If that heading sounds confusing, don’t worry, I’ll explain the concept in more detail. Humans have a psychological tendency to do things for people that will do things in return for them. If you’re out with a friend, and they pay for your dinner, you’re more likely to give them something at a later date. The next time you’re out, you’ll be eager to repay them and pay for their dinner. Whereas, you’re reluctant to do things if nothing is ever offered to you.

To put it simply, your advert should offer something. A good example of this is an advert that displays a discount, or promotes a sale. What’s more likely to get clicked on; an advert for shoes, or an advert for 50 per cent off shoes. It’s a no brainer; the 50 per cent off advert will always have a higher click-through rate. And, this is because you’re offering something substantial so searchers more inclined to click the ad and then buy those shoes.

People act when things are scarce

Any psychologist will tell you that scarcity makes people act differently. If something appears to be scarce, it makes you react in a certain way. There’s only one seat left on the bus, so you run like hell to get to it. It installs a little bit of fear in your brain that you’re going to miss out on something. In the digital marketing world, we call this FOMO – ‘Fear of Missing Out’.

It’s easy to use scarcity to encourage people into clicking on your advert. ‘Hurry, 50 per cent off sale ends today’, is an example of advert text that gets people clicking. When you see an advert like that, it triggers the FOMO and the fear of missing out on such a great discount. It’s a tried and tested method that yields positive results.

In conclusion, psychological principles can have a huge impact on your click through rate. If you want to get your CTR up, I you should spend some time working on ways to apply some of the tips above.

Hardik Oza is an SEO practitioner and a contributor of SEMRush and Linkarati Blog

Further reading on click-through rates

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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