Emotional Analysis and Sentiment: What's the Difference?

Wouldn't it be great if we had a crystal ball to tell us how our readers really feel about our web content? We could know for sure if they read clear to the end of the article, or abandoned ship early.

While we can't peek behind the curtain to see what our web visitors are doing and how they feel about it, luckily there are some ways to gauge how our audience is responding to the content we put in front of them.

Emotional analysis and sentiment are two of the easiest ways to do a pulse check on audience approval. Without a pulse check, your content could consistently be falling flat, and you'd never know. Likewise, you might strike gold with a topic or message and wrongly assume your audience didn't like it.

Although people often use emotional analysis and sentiment as interchangeable terms, they are two different measurement methods-- each with a unique set of outputs.

Let's uncover the differences between them, along with some simple ways you can start measuring audience emotion right away.

Sentiment and emotion are not the same

First off, don't make the incorrect assumption that sentiment and emotion are the same things. They even have different dictionary definitions. While sentiment is defined as "an opinion or viewpoint of an individual or group," emotion is defined as a "strong feeling that is connected to a person's mood."

When it comes to content analysis, both are working toward the same goal-- to better understand how a reader feels after consuming a piece of content. The path to get there is a bit different between the two methods, however.

Sentiment analysis

Think of sentiment as the "big picture" of emotion. It captures the overarching feeling or impression someone gets after reading something. It doesn't specify emotions, but instead, rates the feeling as simply "positive" or "negative."

Obviously, there are many different emotions between those two ranges. So when does sentiment actually help?

When you're defining who your audience is or the overall message of your brand, sentiment offers a broad sense of if you're hitting or missing the mark. For example, if 80% of readers have a negative reaction to something you write, it doesn't matter if that emotion is anger, sadness, fear or ambivalence-- you know you struck out and need to try something else.

Likewise, if the majority of your audience has a positive reaction to a piece of content, you know you're on the right track. Use sentiment to identify your audience and your overall message before you dive deeper into analytics.

Emotional Analysis

While sentiment measures generalities, emotional analysis takes it up a notch to identify more complex, wide-ranging emotions. Sentiment has a binary measurement system. Emotional analysis takes a large number of moods and feelings into consideration.

When you think of positive emotions, many things come to mind, right? Happiness, excitement, elation, satisfaction...the list goes on. Emotional analysis not only identifies a positive emotion, but it also offers insight into the impulses and nuances of the specific emotion tied to the positive reaction.

For example, if you get a negative reaction of "disgust" for a piece of content you wrote, you know not to address that topic again. If the reaction is "boredom," it's time to liven up your writing style.

Why is emotional analysis better?

Unlike sentiment, that can only offer limited information about the group as a whole, emotion analysis provides specific details and actionable insights. While each method has its place, here are three reasons why emotional analysis is the clear winner when it comes to fueling stronger content.

It's more advanced than sentiment analysis

You've already learned why sentiment analysis is crucial when you're just starting to frame your audience and message. The "big picture" view of audience reaction is crucial for taking the next step in learning what your readers think of you.

Emotional analysis takes the big picture and extracts a deeper understanding of your audience and what they want to hear. By analyzing the complex range of human emotions, you'll have the edge over those who are still stuck in the initial step of measuring only "positive and negative."

It provides more information and better insights

To understand why a person abandoned your article immediately after they began reading it, you will need to know more than just a binary, "positive or negative" response. Were they bored? Confused? Disinterested? Emotional analysis digs into the details that tell you why your content failed or succeeded.

Sentiment tells you if your content is performing well or not. Emotional analysis tells you why. How can you improve if you don't know what you need to fix? The digital world is too competitive and content consumers are too fickle to leave it to chance.

It gives you the right information to take the right actions

With specific data, you can confidently take action to improve your content. You also know where to double-down your efforts and message, based on what is resonating well with your audience.

Instead of relying on "positive" or "negative" sentiment and trying to fill in the blanks, use emotional analysis to hone in on the content areas in which you excel and where you can improve.

How can I start using emotional analysis?

So how do you get started with measuring audience emotion? It obviously isn't realistic to expect your audience to proactively reach out to you with their thoughts. Fortunately, there are ways to analyze audience emotion that don't require expensive AI platforms, and that you can start using immediately.

While not perfect, these tactics will paint a more accurate picture of how your audience is responding to your content so that you can refine your strategy.


A common method to better understand visitor emotion is through the use of analytics. By tracking conversion and bounce rates and time on pages, you will glean some information about audience reaction. Alone, however, those metrics may not be clear enough to provide the insight you need.

Are visitors staying on the page because the content is fantastic or because it's long? Are they leaving because it's terrible, or because it's short and they read fast? Analytics can certainly be helpful but are often somewhat limited in what they reveal.


We've all gotten surveys in our inbox, asking for our reaction to a product, service or piece of content. Surveys are an easy way to gather specific, actionable insight. However, there are a few drawbacks to consider.

First, the response is not always immediate. It may take several reminders before you get a reply. By then, the initial reaction to your content may be forgotten. Secondly, to get enough responses to be valuable, you may need to incentivize your readers to reply. Not only can that get expensive, but you run the risk of disingenuous feedback.

Feedback widgets

To capture emotional analysis, you need to catch your readers while they are in the moment and get their specific emotional reaction. Feedback widgets are the perfect tool to collect the right emotional analysis at the right time.

By using a simple, universally applicable feedback widget like Emojion, you can collect meaningful feedback immediately and improve your business and services quickly--without wasting time on trial and error.

Through customizable questions, powerful analytics and integrations, Emojion offers your visitors a fun and easy way to engage with you, fueling the insights you need.

Now that you know the difference between sentiment and emotional analysis, you will be better able to employ the right strategies to improve your website over time. Gather sentiment, but don't stop there. Use emotional analysis to connect with your audience and build lasting relationships that will grow your business.