Back to basic persuasive writing techniques
(October 31, 2011)

Sometimes when your website copy is falling flat - it just feels so difficult to get people to do what you want. What generally motivates us to do something? Pleasure, pain, hope, fear, acceptance, and rejection are the core motivational factors. Conversion triggers are almost a science unto themselves. However, there are simple, basic writing techniques which play off these factors to create more compelling website copy – it’s time to head back to the basics of persuasive copywriting. Try a couple of the persuasive writing tips below to have your site’s users behave as you’d like them to on your site.

Why, what’s in it for me?

Sometimes you just have to spell it out and tell people why they should do something or What’s in it for them. Not to treat them like children, but kids naturally need a little persuasion and when you answer the BECAUSE.

“Eat your broccoli” is less likely to get a positive response than “Broccoli will make your bones strong and you can go play when you’ve finished”.

Granted, they may want that follow up question answered too.

Answer the hard questions

Sometimes those follow-up questions are the most difficult. But answering the tough questions and addressing objections provide the biggest benefit for the payoff. You can’t hide from the tough questions – especially in a twitter world. So face the music.

“Right, broccoli doesn’t taste as good as pie and it is green, but you can eat a lot more of it than you can pie.”


Repition is one of the cornerstones of education and any communication in fact. Repeat your message until they start to pay attention or it finally sinks in. Sometimes we’re just not paying close enough attention the first time you say something.

On a website, it might be the placement or just as in real life we may be distracted for that instant. So repeat it or try saying it in a slightly different way – a different keyword might just trigger my attention your way.

"You can go out and play once you've eaten all your brocolli. It makes your bones strong and that's a good thing for hockey players."

Dare to compare

Anecdotal evidence or an interesting analogy or similes are great ways to help me grasp your message. They help me relate to your idea.  If your site or product is really worth my attention, don’t be afraid to compare it with the other guys.

Just as interesting is if you compare your product to something unrelated to help transfer the sentiment or value of the other product to yours. Compare your consulting fee to the price and time required for the basic courses in your field.

Be consistent

Stay focused on the message, repeat the winning formula, stick with the same tense, and show consistency.

In real life we like people, especially our leaders, to know what they’re talking about and to stick to the same ideology over the course of time. We can evolve but we all like knowing that we’re going to get what was promised.

If your site’s look is open and current, then your copy shouldn’t sound stiff and like it was written in the middle ages. If the first few buttons have descriptive instruction, don’t suddenly start using “submit”.

Tell me a story

We all like a good carefully crafted story. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, an ad, blog post, or the text on your home page. Good stories draw the reader in and allow them to make it their own. They start imagining themselves in the lead role and start adding color and props to each scene.

This has never been more true for any communications that those over the internet. A one-to-one experience. Stories typically make room for emotion, they use drama and comedy as much as descriptive text. Through a well crafted story you allow the reader to come to the same conclusion… on their own time and terms.

SOCIAL PROOF – a recent addition to the list

Herd mentality can be a powerful force but a testimonial or referral from a friend – a trusted source – can be one of the most powerful forms of persuasion that exists. As humans we are all hardwired to be social. Looking for guidance, direction or a helping hand from others is natural. As is being prepared to offer our opinions to others.

Aside from the obvious +1, like buttons, referrals and testimonials a well-crafted story can easily build in social proof with a little name dropping or a quote from an expert resource, not to mention links and other subtle alignments to experts.

These points and my list for persuasive calls-to-action are part of my mental checklist as I’m writing, editing or reviewing web copy. What’s on your list?

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.