Aristotle set the groundwork for persuasive writing techniques about 2,400 years before the hotshot copywriters we call “legends” were even born.
Tactics and tools change, but the fundamentals don’t.
According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, your prospects will only read about 20 percent of the website copy on any given page.
Wouldn’t you say it’s important that what they do read moves them closer to the purchase?
Get a solid grip on persuasive writing for ecommerce, and you can light a fire under your conversion rate.
That’s what you want, right?
Here’s how Aristotle would do it.
What are “persuasive writing techniques” and why do they matter?
Business is about selling things.
Let’s get that offensive, four-letter word, “sell,” right out in the open.
We’re going to talk about selling here, and we’re going to talk about how you can sell even more.
Persuasion can as easily be applied to helping people make the best decision for themselves (honorable selling) as it can to talking people into doing the wrong thing (despicable selling).
We’re talking about the good kind here.
You have something worthwhile, you know it can benefit many of your website visitors, and you want to help them get it.
It’s a beautiful world when business works like that.
Aristotle’s approach to persuasion
The ancient Greek philosophers loved debate. They were hard after the pursuit of truth, and they turned every stone over trying to find it.
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the others… those guys were amazing. If they would’ve been in sales, their records would still be standing.
Reflecting on the training in debate received from his teachers, Aristotle identified three essential components of persuasion:
- Ethos convinces the reader that the author can be trusted.
- Pathos persuades the reader emotionally
- Logos persuades the reader logically
Combine those three ingredients, and you have the essence of copy that converts.
Why are persuasive writing techniques important?
If you’re writing isn’t persuasive, you’ll get poor engagement and dismal sales.
Let’s look at 25 concrete examples of how Aristotle’s three pillars of persuasion apply to your ecommerce website today.
25 Proven Persuasive Writing Techniques Aristotle Would Love
Ethos (the appeal to credibility)
We tend to trust physicians, but distrust politicians. Logic tells us medical doctors can be wrong and politicians can care about the people they’re elected to serve. The default starting point, though, is different for both.
Check these examples of how you can build credibility in the eyes of your best prospects:
- Never lie to your audience. That habit begins with a great headline. Whatever you promise there absolutely must be delivered in the copy. In fact, when we asked Jay Baer what his number one persuasive writing technique was, he said “Have a great headline. No headline = no readers”.
- Check your facts. Trying to look like you know what you’re talking doesn’t cut it. Make sure you know what you’re talking about.
- Check your copy for grammatical error. Not everyone agrees on all the rules, but blatant errors in usage and spelling will damage your credibility.
- Always include contact information. Make sure those lines of communication are answered quickly and professionally.
- Back up your assertions with data, charts, statistics, quotes from experts, etc. The more proof you exhibit, the more your visitors will trust what you say.
- Highlight your affiliations, your unique qualifications, and anything else that will help position your company as leaders in your niche.
- Maintain a consistent brand, voice, and style. Avoid confusion and inconsistency.
- Use social proof liberally. Your visitors will believe what “Joe from Hoboken” says about your new line of hiking boots a whole lot quicker than if they must depend on your description only.
Pathos (the appeal to emotions)
Barack Obama campaigned on the idea of unity. He promised to bring both major political parties to the table in service of the American people.
Whether you believe he accomplished that mission or not, it was a message that resonated deeply with voters. It appealed to their emotional desire for peace and progress.
Here are suggestions on how to use pathos in your persuasive copy:
- Tell a great story. Make your ecommerce website copy read like a novel the visitor doesn’t want to put down. Speak directly to your best prospects. Be human.
- You know what’s troubling your audience. Bring it up, make it real, then promise a solution. Be the knight on the white horse for your customers.
- Use language to evoke an emotional response. That new child carrier isn’t just “made from high-quality materials,” it’s “protecting your baby from danger.”
- Don’t believe the gurus who warn you about sending too much email. Most companies send far too little. Make sure the messages you send are valuable to the recipients. Then use them to strengthen your relationship (emotional bond) with them.
- Be liberal in showing your visitors how much you like and care about them. Provide quick access to customer service.
- Offer satisfaction guarantees. Stand behind your offers, and your customers will stand behind you.
- You’re speaking to thousands, but you’re doing that one at a time. Get personal. Be personal. Drop the industry jargon and sanitary descriptions that sound like they came straight from an engineering manual. As Ann Handley recommended to us:
“Write to one, single person. Not a group or a target audience or a marketing persona. One. Actual. Person. Imagine that person in your head and imagine why he or she should care about what you’re writing. One easy way to do that is to ask, so what?”
- Perform extensive user experience (UX) testing on your site to be sure your best prospects can easily navigate your site and get through to checkout with minimum friction. Keep them happy.
Logos (the appeal to common sense)
The old maxim says people buy based on their emotions, then justify the purchase based on logic. Accurate or not, it’s clear that an effective persuasive appeal should be acceptable to both the heart and the mind.
Consider these tactics for using logic in your persuasive copy:
- Provide plenty of reasons why. Never assume your visitors will figure it out on their own. State the obvious.
- Speak the same language your best prospects speak. Make it easy for them to understand what you’re saying and what they should do.
- Use concise statements. Don’t worry about filling a page with words. Worry about filling your prospects’ eyes and minds with the right information.
- Repetition is good. Make your point in several different ways: Tell a story, show an example, use a famous quote, summarize, etc. There are plenty of ways to get your message across. Use multiple avenues.
- If supplies are limited, say so. Don’t invent scarcity, but always announce it. It’s much worse to not be able to fulfill an order than to let prospects know the stock is getting low.
- Do the same for limited time offers. If I can only get that special price if I order today, you’ve given me a logical reason to take action now.
- Use comparisons. Connect your argument to something the reader already accepts as true.
- Logically map out why the prospect should choose your products or services, then list them in a no-nonsense fashion.
- Remember the 20 percent factor. Your visitors will skip over much of your website copy. Use headlines, subheads, bullet points, and other call-out copy to guide them through the main points that particular webpage is making. Use copywriting formulas like AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-
Action) to keep your copy concise and focused. Make your path to purchase absolutely clear.
Persuasive Writing Techniques Boost Conversions
Set your ego aside for a moment and consider the following statement. It can revolutionize your website copy:
Everyone thinks they can write (because they can), but few writers know how to use persuasive writing techniques effectively. And even if you have a copywriter working for you who does know and apply the principles, that work will be edited by a manager who doesn’t.
Do you see the problem there?
It’s crucial that every person who has a hand in the copy approval process actually knows what good copy looks like. Do that and you’ll beat the 20 percent statistic. Your readers will be drawn in by your marketing messages, they’ll reward you with more orders, and they’ll do that more often.
Persuasive website copy is a necessary part of conversion rate optimization.