What Makes Persuasive Web Copy Work?

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Whatever kind of company you have, and whatever you’re selling, you need persuasive web copy if you want to be successful. The copy on your website is going to inform, entertain and hopefully motivate your users to take action — that is, as long as it’s persuasive enough to work.

Unfortunately, persuasiveness is somewhat ethereal. It’s hard to pin down, exactly, and it’s open to subjective interpretation. Consider it for yourself: What makes something persuasive or not persuasive? Chances are, you’re going to have different answers depending on the context of this question, in that your answers are probably going to be very different than the answers of your peers.

Related: Inconsistency is a Content Marketing Poison, But It Doesn’t Have to Be

So what is it that makes persuasive copy work? And what steps can you take to make sure your web copy is as persuasive as possible?

The value of persuasive copy

Having persuasive copy on your website is indispensable. It’s almost impossible to achieve any conceivable website goal without persuasive copy on your side.

Are you selling products? You need to convince users they’re worth the money. Are you selling services? The same idea applies. What if you’re collecting donations for a nonprofit organization? You need to persuade people your organization will use the funds wisely. And what if you just want people to read your content more? You still need persuasive web copy to get them to stay — and sign up for your email newsletter.

If your copy is persuasive enough, every paragraph or content section on your website can serve a specific function, encouraging users to behave in a specific way or helping you achieve one of your business goals.

The hallmarks of persuasive copy

So what is it that makes copy persuasive? This is a tough question to answer because persuasiveness comes in many forms. Different people are going to be persuaded in different ways, and methods of persuasion must change based on how you’re interacting with those people.

Still, these are some of the main hallmarks of persuasive web copy that every website should follow:

  • Conciseness. As with all forms of copywriting, conciseness counts. The average person’s attention span is very limited, and they don’t have the time or patience to put up with massive swaths of text. Generally speaking, the fewer words you say, the better. Pack your information into the smallest possible form to ensure efficient delivery.
  • Originality. You also need to think about originality. There are some persuasive taglines, slogans and turns of phrase that have historically worked for a wide variety of different brands. If you simply steal these and make them fit your brand, you’re going to be seen as unoriginal. In other words, your messaging is going to fall flat. You have to come up with something unique if you want to make a good impression.
  • Repetition. Repetition may also be valuable. Users seeing a message for the first time are going to be skeptical and remember the message less efficiently than counterparts who have seen the message many times in different forms. This is one reason why it’s so important to streamline your branding across all sales, marketing and advertising channels.
  • Readability. Persuasive content isn’t full of buzzwords or technical jargon. It’s also not tightly crammed with long sentences. Instead, it’s neatly organized and highly readable; even someone unacquainted with this subject should have no problem comprehending what you’re saying. This is also why font choice, color choices and other web design elements are so important.
  • Audience value. There are some specific audience considerations to keep in mind as well. Persuasive copy is at its best when it’s specifically targeted to one niche audience. What do your customers want to see? Do they prefer a specific tone? What level of knowledge do they have? What values can you appeal to?
  • Trust. Trust signals on your website can help establish a foundation of trust, but your copy also needs to be inherently trustworthy. Pride yourself on the accuracy and believability of your statements and avoid sensationalism. If you’re too obnoxious or over-the-top with your promises, you’re only going to end up turning people away.

Actionable takeaways for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs interested in mastering the persuasiveness of their web copy can study the following takeaways:

  • Know your audience. You absolutely can’t afford to skimp on market research. The better you know your audience, the better you’ll be able to write copy for them.
  • Distinguish yourself. Take a look at your top competitors and other leaders in the industry. You need to find a way to distinguish yourself from them. What makes you unique?
  • Sell a solution. Persuasive copy focuses on selling a solution to someone who has a measurable problem. Don’t simply describe the product; describe why and how it’s valuable.
  • Experiment. It’s hard to achieve peak persuasiveness on your own, on your first attempt. Instead, you’ll be forced to experiment with different variables, trying out different phrases and combinations until you land on something that works. AB testing is your best friend here.

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The bad news is that there’s no surefire formula for how to write effective web copy. The good news is that you have plenty of tools and strategies to help you come up with something original. As long as you’re willing to research carefully, put some thought into your writing and keep making changes until you have something that works, you can make your website writing much more compelling.


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