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The Most Common Word at My House: “Why?”

As a father of three boys aged five and under, there’s a word I hear a lot in my house. I’m sure other parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, child care workers, and people with kids in their lives will know what it is.

“Why?”

  • Why do I have to brush my teeth?
  • Why are there clouds in the sky?
  • Why do you have to feed the baby again?
  • Why do have to wear clothes and not my PJs to Grandpa’s birthday party?
  • Why does daddy get more chips than me?
  • Why does poo smell so bad?
  • Why do I have to go to bed now?

The questions come fast and while there are a few “what,” “when,” “where,” and “how” questions mixed in, “why” questions seem to dominate—at least at our place.

Of course why questions are a normal healthy part of a child’s life. They’re curious little beings and asking “why” is partly about making sense of the world they live in.

The other part of the “why” obsession is a little different, though. It has more to do with gathering information to help them make decisions.

Take “Why do I have to wear clothes and not PJs to Grandpa’s birthday party?” for example. Behind that question is a three-year-old trying to work out what to wear to grandpa’s birthday party, and whether to make a stand on it being PJs.

What he’s really trying to work out (in his own way) are the benefits of getting dressed as opposed to wearing PJs to the party. As his parent, if I can give him some compelling benefits of one or the other option, I’m hopefully going to convince him to make a good decision (although it doesn’t always work with three-year-olds).

As a result, after many “why” questions there is always a “because…” response.

  • Because your PJs are not clean.
  • Because we want to show Grandpa your brand new party shirt.
  • Because you’ll match daddy if you wear your clothes.
  • Because nobody else will be wearing PJs.
  • Because I’ll give you a chocolate if you wear your clothes (second-last resort—bribery!).
  • Because I said so! (last resort—only occasionally works if said in the right tone of voice).

Why isn’t just a “kids’” word

While my boys will mature in many areas of their life, they are unlikely to ever stop asking “why?” I know this because it’s still a word that I use all day every day. It’s not always spoken, but it’s definitely one that echoes in my mind all day long as I make decisions.

In fact, almost any time I come to make any kind of decision, big or small, I question “why?”

  • Why should I buy the Volvo over the Mazda?
  • Why should I go for a run today?
  • Why should I read a book to my boys?
  • Why should I buy this app or ebook?
  • Why should I give money to that charity?

The questions are big and small, important and insignificant—but “why?” is a question I ponder almost every time. The “because” responses can be compelling … although at times it can be as simple as “because it will make me feel good.”

Why is this relevant to bloggers?

As bloggers I think it’s good to think about this, because “why?” is also something that your readers will be asking as they read your blog. Constantly.

Every time you ask your readers to do anything, they’ll be wondering “Why?”

  • Why should I read this blog?
  • Why should I subscribe to that newsletter?
  • Why should I read this post?
  • Why should I tweet out a link to this?
  • Why should I buy that ebook?
  • Why should I bookmark this?

Readers are asking these “Why?” questions almost every time you ask them to do anything explicitly (and sometimes just as they decide if or how to use your blog).

Knowing this, you can put yourself in a good position to respond. As you look at your blog on a big-picture level—as well as when you’re doing micro tasks like writing posts—identifying the “why?” moments and then providing compelling “because” statements can be a very effective exercise.

Sometimes you might weave the “because” into your writing in a gentle way, but other times, you might explicitly give voice to the “why?” questions and then give “because” answers.

Why? in practice

Let me give you an example. One of the important points of action that we have on Digital Photography School is around the selling of our ebooks. It’s not the first action we call people to take, but for the sustainability of the site, it’s obviously important that we generate income.

So as we put an offer to readers, I’m very aware that they’ll be asking a series of “why?” questions including:

  • Why should I buy this ebook?
  • Why is the topic relevant to me?
  • Why an ebook? Why not a “real” book?
  • Why buy this ebook over buying another ebook?
  • Why should I trust this site to deliver value?

Identifying some of these main “why?” questions allows me to begin to answer them in the marketing material for our products.

I first did this exercise on dPS with our very first ebook after reading some work by Michael Daehn (and some of Michael Fortin’s work on “why”). Michael Daehn talks in a case study in which they found that explicitly using the word “because” in your marketing had real impact.

The resulting sales page for our bestselling portrait ebook includes this section:

Why Invest in The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography?

Let’s answer the question of why this is a resource for you:

  • Because it will teach you how to take portraits with that “wow” factor.
  • Because it contains our very best portrait photography tips on 25 topics—all in the one easy-to-read book.
  • Because it has inspiring illustrations to show how the teaching along side them can be implemented.
  • Because each page is packed with teaching—there’s no padding here.
  • Because you get six bonus interviews with pro photographers who make a living from taking portraits.
  • Because you get a 30-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee.
  • Because you get it immediately—there’s no delivery fee because it is a downloadable ebook.

If you look over the marketing material surrounding our other photography ebooks you’ll see similar “because” paragraphs in a number of them.

Not only that, but most of what you see in other parts of our sales pages also emerges from answering “why?” questions. Identifying the real benefits, rather than just listing features, gives readers a reason why what you’re offering is worth acting upon.

Again, this isn’t just about selling products or services—it’s an important consideration in any action you might ask people to take, whether that be subscribing, commenting, sharing, or even just reading.

So, if you want readers to act upon your calls to action:

  1. Identify the “why?” questions your readers will be asking in different parts of your blog.
  2. Identifying the benefits of their taking an action.
  3. Provide “because” statements (whether they be explicitly stated with the word “because” or not).

You can do this exercise on a post-by-post level, on sales pages, when you’re thinking about your navigation and site-wide calls to action, services pages, advertisers’ pages—even on your social media profiles!

Why?

Because it works (and I’ll give you chocolate if you do).

When I asked my contacts how they felt about asking “Why?” in their blogging work, I got some interesting responses. Patricia Patton, who’s had trouble developing a unique selling proposition for her blog, said she felt this approach would help her “to be more objective” about herself and what she has to offer.

And Andrij Harasewych shared some thoughts from the perspective of a customer, saying, “there really needs to be some sort of truly unique content to get me motivated enough to buy an ebook.” All too often, he said, the “Why?” question is not even answered intrinsically by the product itself, let alone in the marketing copy.

Do you ask yourself “Why?” as you work to improve different aspects of your blog? Do you think this technique could be helpful? I’d love to get your insight in the comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Proof that no matter how old we get – our basic ways of thinking stay the same. :) This is an interesting approach on a very important topic. We can include calls to action in our blog posts day in and day out, buy why should our readers listen to us? Thanks for the insight!

  2. Hi Darren,

    Excellent points.

    We think in “Why”‘s. We think in terms of benefits, or reasons why we should do things. I ask myself these questions to clarify why I am doing, what I am doing. It helps me put myself in the shoes of my reader, who is the person asking these questions.

    Before every post I write I think, “Why”? Now I have a pretty much 100% of the answer: origin in a concern or problem of a gifting prospect. Or, I recount my experiences, sharing with folks how I was able to prosper or drive more traffic to my blog.

    But the question precedes the post. The Why, is the big motivator, it’s someone we ask of ourselves on a subconscious level, continually. As you note Darren, little kids do this out loud. It’s a force of habit. We all have this tendency growing up, but adults usually stop questioning, which absolutely kills the deductive process in our minds and causes us to move forward like unthinking robots.

    Keep asking. Wonderful things happen for your blog, if you are ready for as many Why questions as you possibly can be ready for.

    Thanks Darren!

    Ryan

  3. Sheyi says:

    Why did you write this post? Lol$

    This is a fantastic article. Saw your tweet which brought me to this article. I was kinda expecting 100% home talks (like a familiar house stuff articles) until I came in and saw additional helpful tips here.

    Sheyi

  4. Growing up in a strict primary school made it quite a challenge to ask ‘why.’ I had many unanswered questions. I only learned the importance of asking these kind of questions during my college years and they definitely have helped.

    Thanks for giving a new insight on how to ask ‘Why’ on my own blogs. Why really IS an important question. I believe it’s a matter of turning different factors into questions. These can really help us explore into different things – maybe even ask more why questions. Truly, endless possibilities.

  5. I hadn’t thought if it in exactly this way, but it makes perfect sense. We had 3 kids under 4 years old and the question of why always popped up too. I found myself asking why after a few weeks of giving birth to the third one :-)

    Seriously, this has given me yet another reason to think before I do anything, write anything or determine to change anything on my blogs. Why is a perfectly sound question in blogging.

  6. Why is one of the best questions in life. It brings so much more clarity. It’s all really about getting into the habit of asking it before you do something.

  7. Mohan says:

    The best article… I am really excited to see all your articles…thanks

  8. Giving the “because” way ahead can save both the reader and you some valuable time.

  9. Great post, Darren. You very well explained the important of questions for bloggers with simple example.

  10. Carlos Ramos says:

    I think I should ask myself “Why?” more often in order to deliver more valuable content. After all, if I cannot answer that simple question, why would my readers have to?
    Nice post!

  11. Kenny Fabre says:

    Darren

    you definitely have this on point, the best way to answer people’s why is to add value as bloggers

  12. Mike says:

    I think it is essential to always be asking why! It helps us to progress in new ways and to perhaps be thinking of new ways to handle a situation or aiming to better increase our own productivity. Otherwise we get stuck in our own ruts.

  13. Anne says:

    Hi Darren, New here – came via Heather Allard. Just wanted to thank you for this post **because** it made me think about why I love doing what I do. I never really thought about it that way, but you’re right on about forcing the “because.” And it actually turned out there were several reasons why I love taking junky stuff and making it something great as well as blogging about it (super new to that.)
    And besides that, man, it just feels good to put a stake in the ground and answer a question with something besides “because I said so!”
    Now, I’m going to go give myself a piece of chocolate!

  14. vijay says:

    I feel Why is the most important of all the questions out there and I always get criticized for asking why :)

    I liked the way you put the question in such a detailed post. When someone makes joke about my “why” next time, I will send him here.

  15. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for the insight, this is surely a topic that is often overlooked by new bloggers, yet a very important one at that. What makes me different? Why should people follow me? Because I offer a different perspective on life. Something to think about!

  16. histrik says:

    why why why? Why I event want to comment to your nice blog post like this.

  17. I’ve never thought about using the word “because” specifically to draw out the benefits to answers of “why”. Any data on using it in a subject line of an email/enewsletter? My mind is already thinking ahead. Thanks for the great post and ideas.