There are a lot more blogs on the internet now than there ever have been, the old adage of just provide good content and visitors will follow no longer necessarily holds true. Apart from good content, which is now the lowest common denominator, you also need to find an edge that will keep you ahead of your competition.

You need to have something special that will help you get more people to subscribe on your blog. Psychology and persuasion theories offer some answers. Many psychology theories can be modified slightly to be effective in the online blogging setup as well. Here are a few that you can use:

Reciprocity Norm


The reciprocity norm is commonly observed phenomenon in the world. In fact, it is highly likely that you’ve been influenced by it yourself at some point, according to Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University, a well-known expert in the science of persuasion and the author of the acclaimed book Influence: Science and Practice. Quite simply, the reciprocity norm states that people feel obligated to give something back to someone who gave them something first.

This social norm was first studied by Kunz and Woolcott through their experiment. Kunz and Woolcott decided to send Christmas cards to people they did not know personally. They received a card in return from a majority of these strangers and were even included in the regular mailing list of many of these individuals and families.

How to implement it for your blog

In blogging, you can use this social norm and psychological compulsion by offering something for free to your readers. Typically, bloggers offer free eBooks, guides, or even access to a unique software program to get their readers to subscribe to their blog’s newsletter. While this may be the simplest and most common way to leverage reciprocity norm, you may be able to come up with more innovative scenarios to use it.

Scarcity Principle


The scarcity principle works perfectly in the modern world where consumerism rules the roost over all other social theories. The principle is fairly simple, it posits that when people perceive something to be high in demand and low on supply, they want to be the first ones to get it (Apple iWatch anyone?).

There are various driving factors behind this tendency of wanting something that’s scarce or about to become unavailable. The first and obvious factor is that people do not want to miss out on the experience of trying something that may not be available in the future, so they choose to go ahead and acquire it as they can always discard it if it is found to be unnecessary.

The other driving factor behind the scarcity principle being so influential is that of social standing. Because something is about to become unavailable, people think that they may lose their social standing by not having that item. What makes scarcity principle so effective on people is the thought of someone else vying for the same thing and the chance that that other person will get it first and they may get left behind.

How to implement it for your blog

In blogging and subscriptions, this principle can be applied easily and in various ways. The first method is to make it seem that the subscription option is only open for a little while and will be closed soon because the time during which it must remain open is almost up.

The second method is to make it seem as if the subscription list is some kind of an elitist group where only specially chosen individuals are allowed. With limited participation being cited again and again, readers will begin to feel that they are being left out of some unique experience and are losing face because of it.

In both situations, if you give the impression that there are countless people waiting in the wings for the opportunity, then you are sure to get a good response.

Primacy and Recency


Primacy and Recency are concepts that are derivations of a psychological theory known as the Serial Position Effect. The theory specifies the tendency of people to be able to remember and recall the first few terms and the last few terms the best from a list.

The tendency to focus on the first few terms is known as the Primacy Effect while the tendency to focus on the last few terms is called the Recency Effect. This theory along with its effects has also been applied to online writing which makes it a great find for bloggers.

How to implement it for your blog

The impact of these effects on blogging is fairly obvious. If you want your readers to be more susceptible to your bid to get them to subscribe then all you need to do is either place the subscription link at the beginning of your copy or at the end.

What this means is that you should either begin your content by requesting readers to subscribe or end your copy with it. It is not surprising that most bloggers choose the latter option. The reason for this is the fact that it allows the bloggers to build their argument in a sequential manner.

At the same time, without building a case for subscription which would be necessary if the Primacy effect was to be used, most readers would be uninterested in providing their email addresses.

Social Proof


Social proof is just the technical term that describes people’s tendency to follow the crowd. In other words, when people tend to do something just because everyone else is doing it, the trend is known as social proof. While social proof is a well-established psychological concept, it is described with respect to persuasion and influence by Robert Cialdini. Robert Cialdini suggests that social proof is one of the six core principles around which the science of persuasion is based.

Various other luminaries have also studied the effects of social proof and deemed it a very real phenomenon. As per established beliefs backed by statistical data, every time a story of suicide is given importance in the media, the number of suicide attempts, murders, and even incidents of car accidents and plane crashes go up drastically.

For instance, David Phillips, a renowned sociologist, studied the statistical effects a suicide story being reported widely in mass media. Phillips studied a 21 year period between the years of 1948 and 1968 for suicide reports and found that the number of car and plane crashes went up concurrently.

David Phillips termed this phenomenon as the Werther Effect. The term coined by Phillips is based on a character from one Goethe novel who committed suicide. This event in the book, supposedly, resulted in a slew of suicides in Europe more than 200 years ago.

How to implement it for your blog

There are applications of this disturbing concept of social proof for bloggers as well. There are various ways through which you can use this to increase the subscription rate amongst your readers. Firstly, if you get covered by an established media organisation or even by other bloggers, you can create credibility and increase your own popularity.

Similarly, if you can prove that a celebrity subscribed to your blog then you can create another effect of social proof. However, the most viable method would be for you to use user based social proof, where you depict the rising number of subscribers on your blog through statistics, testimonials, social media popularity, and even customer reviews.

Trigger Words


Various fiction novels have touted that words have power. The way the media holds sway over so many of the world’s population substantiates this claim further. Numerous researches and studies have been done to figure out how words persuade people and which words are the most influential. The logic behind this concept is the fact that people tend to react more to certain words than others. Conversely, some words seem to get people moving more than others.

Bloggers, however, have known about the power of particular words for a long time now. The same holds true for internet marketers and copywriters. Still, most people use these words for conversions or gaining visitors. Why not use them for increasing subscriptions?

How to implement it for your blog

There are five words that are widely considered to be the most persuasive as they have survey and research based proofs behind them. These words are “you”, “free”, “because”, “instantly”, and “new”. As you can, no doubt, already see, all these words conform to one or another psychological theory already mentioned above. In effect, these are one word representation of all the psychology and persuasion theories mentioned above.


To sum it all up, there are five different ways through which you can increase the subscription rate on your blog. These are.

  1. Give something for free to your readers and request subscription in return.
  2. Hint that subscription will be closed or that there are only a few spots left.
  3. Position your persuasive arguments and call to action at the end of your copies.
  4. Show that people are clamouring to subscribe to your blog.
  5. Use trigger words that have most impact to influence your readers.
Images by Marcin KargolFlazingo Photos, BenChris LottCorey Leopold, and Steven Depolo.