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Machine Learning in WordPress: How to Analyze the Emotional Impact of Your Content Using AI

The way people feel while navigating your website and reading your content is difficult to quantify. However, it’s something you need to understand if you want to truly engage your audience. This means you might want to learn how to use machine learning in WordPress to analyze your content’s impact.

With the right tools, you can actually quantify the emotional impact of your content and tweak it to target different feelings. To be fair, this isn’t an exact science, and we can’t tell you which emotions will resonate best with your audience. Still, you can learn a lot from the process.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how machine learning in WordPress may change the way you approach content creation. Then, we’ll introduce you to a tool that will help you analyze the emotional impact of your articles. Let’s get in touch with our feelings!


How artificial intelligence may change the way you use WordPress

First, it’s important to understand that we’re still nowhere close to real Artificial Intelligence (AI). While the technology has advanced, it’s still not able to write original content. However, one area in which we have made huge strides is machine learning, which is a (kind of) similar field.


Machine learning involves having computers use algorithms to get better at particular tasks. The more data you feed these systems, the better they can become at analyzing it and predicting results.

There are already a few WordPress applications available to the public that are based on machine learning. For example, there’s WordLift, which enables you to build better taxonomies and find sources for your content.

Most machine learning applications are still very hit and miss, however.

That means it’s hard to predict how the technology will progress in the short term, and how it will impact content creation.


To give you a better idea of where it’s at, we spoke to Tom Ewer – the founder of WordCandy – who has plenty of experience creating content for WordPress websites. Here’s what he had to say:

tom ewer
First off, it’s important to remember that we’re still in the early days of artificial intelligence and machine learning. I think we’re going to see some interesting advances in tools that help you to create better taxonomies for your content, and find related articles your readers might want to check out. There are already some plugins that do this, and as the technology improves, so will the results. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where machine intelligence can take over the process of creating compelling (and accurate) content, however, so I wouldn’t start downsizing writers and editors just yet!Tom Ewer, WordCandy
This is a solid assessment of the current state of machine learning for WordPress. At this point, it’s a unique technology with just a few applications. However, we did find one tool that uses machine learning in WordPress to great effect. Let’s check it out:

Machine learning in WordPress: An introduction to Watsonfinds

Watsonfinds is a service built on top of the IBM Watson system. Watson bills itself as a kind of AI, but to be more accurate it’s a sophisticated machine learning system with access to several terabytes of data, featuring the ability to analyze that data for specific purposes.

In this particular case, Watsonfinds can use its ‘knowledge’ to analyze any text in the WordPress editor and break it down into five emotions: joy, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear. Armed with that information, you can tweak your content until you’re targeting the exact sentiment you want (as long as it’s one or more of those five).


To use this tool, all you have to do is install and activate the plugin. Then go to any of your pages or posts, and open them using the Edit option. Inside, you’ll find a new button at the top of your editor. Click on it when you’re ready to analyze your content’s emotional impact:

The Watsonfinds button.


Now, Watsonfinds will display a window including a simple analysis of your content. This includes a percentage breakdown of each emotion’s ‘strength’, and a brief tidbit about the ways your tone can affect engagement:

An example of a Watsonfinds analysis.

At this stage, you can go back to work on your content, and put your new tool for machine learning in WordPress into action!

Watsonfinds is a free plugin, but there’s a premium service in the works that will include more in-depth analysis.

How to analyze the emotional impact of your WordPress content using Watsonfinds

As we mentioned earlier, Watsonfinds focuses its analyses on five core emotions. In this section, we’re going to talk about each of them, and explain how you can use machine learning in WordPress to better connect with your users.

1. Sadness ☹️

No one wants to be sad, but it’s fair to say that in some cases, you may want to elicit strong negative emotions from your audience. The goal is not to play with their feelings, but to form an emotional bond with them. To illustrate that point, here’s a short paragraph from one of our recent articles that Watsonfinds deemed ‘sad’:

We get through all our initial ideas, and one of two things happens: we realize our articles aren’t resonating with our audience, or we completely run out of ideas. Sometimes both happen, and the lack of growth combined with the end of our original ideas drains our motivation.

Our sadness test results.


It’s easy to spot why Watsonfinds came to this conclusion. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that paragraph is outright depressing. In this case, the author used the text to form a connection with the reader, by discussing a problem we’ve all gone through. That way, when we eventually reveal that there’s a solution, the emotional impact will be more significant.

On the other hand, if you’re writing an article and you just jump right into the reveal, it’s often not as engaging. Notice our use of phrases such as “drains our motivation” and “lack of growth”. If you take those out, the sadness score decreases sharply:

Our updated sadness score results.

However, Watsonfinds still manages to understand that the first part of the paragraph isn’t positive. That’s impressive when it comes to machine learning in WordPress.

2. Joy 😄

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy feeling happy, which makes this emotion an easy sell in your content. Let’s see how Watsonfinds fares, with a small excerpt from our recent article on themes that work great with site builders:

They are all flexible enough to serve multiple purposes and make configuring your website simple, no matter if you’re using Beaver Builder, Elementor or Visual Composer.

Without further ado, take a look at these beautiful designs, pick your favorite one, and start customizing your site with a builder of choice right away.

Our joy test results.


The positive spin in these two paragraphs is easy to spot. To give you more context, that excerpt is what we call a reveal. It’s a simple technique that we sometimes use in introductions, where we break down a problem, and then present the reader with its solution. Naturally, the reveal should be a joyous occasion, and Watsonfinds didn’t fail to notice that.

After having played around with machine learning in WordPress, we’ve found that a score of over 60% is pretty strong for any given emotion. It means that feeling is clearly predominant, but not so much that you’re beating readers over the head with it. Overall, Watsonfinds is especially adept at identifying ‘happy’ paragraphs, which is great if you want to make sure your content is hitting the mark.

3. Disgust 🤮

So far, we’ve talked about two rather straightforward emotions. Now it’s time to look into a more complex one – disgust. From a storytelling perspective, disgust doesn’t have as many applications as joy or sadness, but it can still come in handy. Here’s an example of a Salman Rushdie quote that Watsonfinds found predominantly ‘disgusting’:

One of the problems with defending free speech is that you often have to defend people who you find to be outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting.

Our disgust test results.


Watsonfinds explains that this kind of emotion can be a useful tool when it comes to changing readers’ minds. However, in our experience, it’s far better to use disgust as a way to bond over things you don’t like. For example, if we were to review a WordPress plugin you hated, we might say something like:

This plugin is one of the worst WordPress tools I’ve come across. It wrecked my site and set my dog on fire. I would never use it again even if you paid me to, and I recommend you uninstall it right away!

Our disgust updated test results.


We’d never be so blunt, of course, but this over-the-top example shows that machine learning in WordPress does struggle a bit when it comes to analyzing disgust. During our tests, we had to resort to using extreme adjectives to get our disgust score up, which isn’t ideal.

4. Fear 😨

To keep our trend of negative emotions going, let’s talk about fear. It’s not something you want to overuse, but it can be a handy tool when use intelligently in writing and marketing (FOMO, anyone?). Here’s an example of an excerpt from a recent article about secure WordPress themes:

You won’t need to worry as much about it becoming outdated, causing conflicts with your plugins, falling prey to malicious actors, or outright breaking your site.

Our fear test results.


We talked previously about how you can use sadness to make a stronger impression in your introduction, but fear also does the trick. In this case, the author mentioned the things that could go wrong if you didn’t use a safe theme, and then they swept in and told you how to deal with it.

The key when it comes to eliciting fear is talking about adverse outcomes and how they can negatively affect your readers. If you can tap into the things they’re scared off, you’ll have an easier time engaging them with solutions.

5. Anger 😠

Last but not least, let’s talk about anger. To be honest, anger is rarely one of the emotions we try to elicit from readers when writing articles. Anger is a tricky tool, which can help you connect with your audience but can also alienate them. Let’s create a short example of a WordPress theme review, and see what Watsonfinds has to say:

This theme completely ruined my website, and it caused me to lose all my traffic! I’m going to sue the developers, this site, and everyone involved.

Our anger test results.


According to Watsonfinds, that only scores a 55.34% in the anger category, which is surprising because it reads like an enraged YouTube comment. The tool also discusses how anger can prompt readers to take action, which may or may not be the case.

In our experience, if you’re angry about the same things as your audience, you can use that to form a connection, but it’s not a sustainable emotion. As far as your content is concerned, emotions like sadness, fear, and joy are easier to quantify and to get right when using machine learning in WordPress.


If you can make your readers feel something, you can engage with them and build trust more easily. Watsonfinds helps you analyze the emotional impact of your content, and as far as we’re concerned, it does a decent job. It doesn’t tell you what to change, but it does signal if you’re targeting one of the core emotions correctly.

Let’s break down how each of those five emotions can affect your content:

  1. Sadness: Sad feelings can make your audience feel closer to you.
  2. Joy: Happy readers are the best kind of audience, and Watsonfinds is excellent at identifying positive content.
  3. Disgust: This emotion is a bit tricky, but can help you bond with readers over shared distastes.
  4. Fear: Despite its negative connotations, fear is a highly effective motivator for driving conversions.
  5. Anger: This emotion can, in some cases, help you bond with readers (although we think it’s best to avoid it in most cases).

What do you think about the whole idea of incorporating machine learning in WordPress and your content creation processes? Have you heard of any other interesting implementations of the idea?

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. Learn more below:

Layout and presentation by Karol K.

Yay! 🎉 You made it to the end of the article!
John Hughes

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February 27, 2018 11:58 pm

Emotional appeal is definitely a strong factor when it comes to making sales or generating leads. I believe this is the future of marketing. An effective marketer should know how to cater to their audience’s emotions. This is definitely something we will see more of in the future.

Cherry McCarthy
February 22, 2018 11:15 pm

Great blog, John. A few things jumped out at me. First, “We can’t tell you which emotions will resonate best with your audience” – I disagree. I think if you are familiar with your target buyer persona you know exactly which emotions resonate best with them. No? I totally agree that most machine learning applications are still very hit and miss, which is why it’s even more important to know your buyer. That being said I think these type of plug-ins are only going to gain in popularity and with that will evolve right along with us. Anything that helps us achieve our goal, and along an easier path is worth a shot. Just make sure you have a back up plan too!

Nicola Yap
February 20, 2018 11:55 pm

What an interesting use of AI. Funny how we can teach machines what kind of content we enjoy, and how to read emotions. It’s not infallible of course. But still, 10-15 years ago this kind of tool would be unheard of (or the stuff of science fiction – machines reading emotions?). I’d love to test this plugin out more.

David Wilks
January 23, 2018 1:10 am

Hi John and thanks for the article.
I was unaware of this plugin and really surprised that it only has around 100 active installs. I’ve been writing content for 45+ years and am still happy to get as much help as possible! I’ve installed it and run it against some of my recent posts and find that the analysis matches the posts’ intent.
With a ‘last updated 11 months ago’, I sincerely hope this does not become another abandoned project as it has enormous potential.

Cherry McCarthy
February 22, 2018 11:19 pm
Reply to  David Wilks

I was shocked at the low number too and agree, lots of potential!

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