10 tips for writing that sells

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Ian Lurie Mar 30 2011

No matter why you have it, your web site needs to sell. You need to get visitors to do something, whether that something is ‘sign up’, ‘buy now’ or just ‘keep reading’.

Here are 10 quick tips for copy persuades, sells and converts:

  1. Start by telling people why they should read. Marketing copywriting 101: You have to get folks to read before you can persuade them. Write a headline that gets them reading. Something like, I dunno, ‘Writing that converts’.
  2. Put on the brakes. Online readers start by scanning the page. Use subheadings, images and other rhythm-changers to provide a fast preview of the page. That tells them why they should read, per #1.
  3. Invite agreement. I love Robert Cialdini’s brilliant book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. One of the first lessons in the book is ‘invite agreement’. Say something your ideal customer can agree with. Don’t worry whether everyone will agree. You aren’t speaking to everyone. Focus on your customer. Pssst: Read the first line of this post again to see an example.
  4. Make a concession. Again, from Cialdini: Give your readers something. They’re more likely to stick around. I always try to give folks information they don’t already have. It provides strong incentive for them to keep reading, subscribe and maybe even retweet. It makes them deeper participants.
  5. Provide social proof. This term’s been beaten into a raw, stinky pulp, but it still applies. Demonstrate that others agree with you, or that 100000 people already love your product, you may get higher conversion rates. Note – this only applies if you want folks who desire social proof. If you’re looking for first adopters, this may not matter as much. Pssst: Look at #2 in this list. That’s social proof. It says “A guy 100x smarter than me agrees with me.”
  6. Know the no’s. AKA, the buts. Anticipate readers’ concerns, then allay them. Easy for me to write, hard for you to do, but there you have it.
  7. Don’t fear the long page. Write lots. Long landing pages kick ass. Don’t believe me? Read what Conversion Rate Experts did for SEOMOZ. Design your long lander in ‘chunks’. Put the first chunk and call to action above the fold. Continue the page, building in increasing detail and repeat calls to action. Watch it work.
  8. Put no more than 4-5 lines in a paragraph. A single, massive paragraph tells the reader “big, forbidding blob of information here”. Shorter paragraphs tell her “lots of little, digestible bits of information here.” Which is more inviting?
  9. Repeat yourself. First, make your point: You need copywriting that converts. Then, give an example, social proof or something similar. Then, wrap it all up by working your main point into your call to action.
  10. Call to action. If I look at 20 random web sites, at least 10 of them will be utterly devoid of any call to action. If your visitor has read an entire page, they like you. They want to do something. Help them out!

That’s it. There’s a reason you’re doing all this work. Make sure your writing seals the deal and turns visitors into readers into customers.

Oh, and a call to action: Buy my e-book, The Unscary, Real World Guide to SEO Copywriting. $7, and chock full o’ writing advice.

Also, follow me on Quora. I’m addicted, apparently.

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tags : conversation marketing

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5 Comments

  1. Shawna

    Good tips. Reminds me of teaching speech: Have an attention getter, tell ‘em why they should care, make it organized, tell ‘em something they care about, tell ‘em what you told ‘em and then how they can respond. Good deal. Love Cialdini’s work, too!

  2. I think sub headings are very important. I often scan when I read as well because there are only so many hours in the day and their are lots of great reading sources out there. Including this one!

  3. Great article! I now see the flaw in writing the way my Academic English instructor taught. Writing paragraphs that are longer than they are wide is usually a BAD blogging strategy. Thanks!

  4. Excellent advice. I’m reading Robert Cialdini’s book now and there are some really simple things we can do to get higher conversions.
    Unfortunately, I think it way harder to do it online vs. in person. If nothing else, offering a free ebook and then following up with a subscription request would be an effective way to convert traffic into readers.

  5. I love this post – and let me point out that lists work very well for web copy, too, as your post shows.
    I think my favorite tip is #7 – not to fear long copy. You may think, in theory, that long sales letters (and sales pages) don’t work – but research shows that they DO work. If the writing is good, and the points the writing is making are sound, and actually address the readers’ real concerns, then more copy = more persuasion.

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