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September 11, 2007

Writing persuasive website content

Everyone is a bit skeptical of anything they read on the internet. I, for one, am leery of almost any claim or offer I come across. Therefore, while writing persuasive website content, I find it is important to think of what appears suspicious or convincing on the websites that I come across. Often, it is not just an enticing deal that will persuade a reader like myself on the internet. I will almost always look for some verification of authenticity. These are some of the things I look for:

Credible testimonials. Un-attributed or unrealistic testimonials often do the opposite of what they should do. A specific name or some other identifying blurb (hometown, occupation, etc) is reassuring. The best testimonial is a comment left by a user, complete with email address and contact information. On retail or auction sites where products are being sold, a testimonial from an actual user is much more persuasive, even if it is partially negative.

Balance Strengths and Weaknesses: You always want to write about your strengths. That’s a given. You need to tell the reader why, and how you will be the best provider they’ve ever had. However, everyone is saying that. Everyone claims to be the best and the brightest. So, to stand out, and make yourself sound legitimate, sometimes you might want to throw in a few of your weaknesses. Nothing that would scare off the customer, mind you, but do say what your minimal faults are. For example, if you are a realtor, tell them how you will look out for their best interests and work hard to find your client the best new home in City X. Then, maybe throw in something about how you are only licensed to practice in City X, so therefore you give that city and market your full attention. Or, throw in something about how you are a dedicated family man/woman and while you will work tirelessly for the client, you also find that a balanced personal and family life helps you serve your customers better. There is a fine line to walk here, so tread slowly and carefully and have a third-party review your claims.  

Guarantees. Although I have never actually asked for my money back from a product, it gives me a sense of security to know that there is little risk involved if I make a mistake. Most other customers feel the exact same way. Although they have no intention of actually getting a refund if the product doesn’t meet their expectations, they feel a company must be confident in their product to offer a money-back guarantee.

Legal Information. This should not be in the forefront of the content, but a visible link or fine print shows that a company is legitimate and responsible. Few people have the patience to actually read the legal information, but its absence is always jarring. Providing legal information is like offering a contract to a customer and without it, the transaction seems shady and unofficial.

Details, details, details. No one is going to buy a product or sign up for a service that is vague. It is important to repeat benefits and qualities, but it is doubly important to not limit the information to selling points. Often times, a product seems appealing but a customer has questions or worries about certain aspects. Few readers are willing to go to great lengths to contact a company with their questions before buying, rather they’ll just change their mind. Provide ready details for customers that might be interested. Include a Frequently Asked Questions section. Provide contact information, and of course reply promptly to any questions before a customer loses interest.

Dispel myths. Anticipate your customer’s doubts and allay their fears before they fully develop. A skeptical customer will be especially wary, but if you beat them to the punch they will be both impressed and comforted. Keep your finger on the pulse of current consumer scares and address these issues directly, rather than avoiding the topic. I.E. Assure a customer that their credit card information will be safe (give details why,) acknowledge scam artists on the internet and disassociate yourself from them, advertise a product as improved or renovated (if there were previous complaints about the product.)

In the age of identity theft, unfair business practices and general customer uneasiness, the majority of persuasiveness in web content is gaining trust and making a customer feel comfortable with their transaction. Think of what makes you feel secure, and give that to your readers and customers.

Author:  Devin Hansen: Owner of SEO Copywriters, an American company specializing in unique, quality content.