You feel your blood pressure rising.
Maybe you’re mad, maybe you’re inspired, or maybe you’re just excited to find someone who really, truly gets you. Regardless, your attention is riveted — you can’t look away.
You’ve just been spellbound by content that persuades. It grabs us like nothing else can.
The truth is, words are very powerful things.
They can make us buy things we didn’t think we needed. They can reveal ideas that we’ve been looking for for years. They can make us cry or laugh almost hysterically.
Professional writers know how to use the right words to communicate their intent, they become masters of telling stories over time.
But they don’t just write random content. They write persuasive content.
And if you want to master this craft, you need to start with the basics.
There are many more available for your your content toolbox, but here are 48 essential elements from A to Z (well, almost) to get you started …
The written word should provoke a response, but truly persuasive content contains multiple responses. Chief among these is anxiety. Readers should feel like they need to move forward now – RIGHT now. Don’t be afraid to make ‘em sweat.
Content delivered over time gives you more room to persuade than a one-shot sales page. So put those words to good use by making your writing ring true. Trustworthiness is persuasive.
If you’re going to convince someone with your words they need to ring true. Write with authority and be sure to use the sort of examples that resonate with readers. If you’re writing to moms, they are going to know if you can truly talk “mom,” for example.
Break up your text by including boxes and side bars with extra details including graphs, charts, bulleted lists and engaging quotations.
There is nothing worse than giant blocks of text. Break it up, people! Format your content to be readily scannable. Break your lines every two to three sentences. White space is your friend.
6. Bullet Points
Lists are the most commonly read thing on a page of content. Bullet points are particularly effective — they’re fast and easy to skim. Spend some time writing them well.
Let me know periodically what I can do next. Have a button to help me “Buy Now” or to “Click Here to Sign Up.” Buttons get a better response than random links on a page.
8. Catch Phrases
Put those boxes to good use with quick snippets of text. Write with the intent of creating catch phrases — things others can Tweet or remember about what they are reading. Be clever, but subtle. You want to guide the reader through content — not force feed them slogans.
9. Catchy Headlines
If you read Copyblogger regularly, you know the importance of headlines. How else are you going to get readers to pay attention to you? “10 Things You’ll Never Know about Beans” is much more compelling than “Beans: Facts and Information”
Use color to your advantage when writing killer content. You don’t have to make your words different colors necessarily, but think about the page itself and how to showcase the text you’re creating.
Commas are great — but use them sparingly and only when necessary. If you often find yourself putting in more than one comma in a sentence, it may be a sign that your sentences are too long. Long-winded sentences bore and confuse readers.
12. Common Language
We know you’re smart and you know all sorts of big, fancy words. But unless you’re trying to be irritating, don’t talk down to the reader. Give us something conversational with a common language that we can understand.
Formal English can be tough to use if you’re trying to make things approachable and trustworthy. Rather than “cannot”, use “can’t.” Instead of “does not”, use “doesn’t.” It’s quick, fast and instantly comfortable for readers.
Commas definitely have their place, but also consider the mighty dash. Dashes are great for visually breaking up text, and they tend to make content feel less formal. Because they’re such a strong visual element, they can also help with clarity — it’s easy to see the break in the sentence.
Just because you’re avoiding overly fancy words doesn’t mean you’re going to insult your reader’s intelligence. Your content needs depth. Leave readers as satisfied as if they’d just eaten a good meal.
16. Email Addresses
If you want to make your content authentic, especially on a landing page, don’t make the customer search for your contact information. Make your email address or a contact form easy to find. If your business has a physical address, include that as well.
17. Emotional Response
Engaging content is powerful business. If you can evoke an emotional response from the reader — make her laugh, cry, fume with anger — she’ll be more engaged and likely to read and act on what’s she’s reading.
If your content is leading up to a big promotion, be sure to throw in some extras. Include a valuable bonus, or perhaps link to extra resources as part of your content to build additional trust with your reader. Deliver plenty of value.
A simple trick of persuasive content — include a picture with eyes. If you have a picture of a woman looking to the left, the reader’s eyes will look to the left, too. They want to see what she’s looking at. So if you need attention on something on the page, let the eyes lead the way.
Good content is based on facts. Including true facts and statistics makes your material memorable and reliable as well.
Persuasive content must be smooth and easy to follow. Move through subheadings with logical transitions and avoid obvious repetition. Make it flow into the eyes and mind of the reader.
If you’re housing your persuasive content on a landing page or sales letter, you’ll want to encourage your readers to make the right choice. Offer them an iron-clad guarantee. Be sure it’s something you can actually honor — “We guarantee you’ll have the time of your life with these new tips!” isn’t particularly iron-clad. (But if you’re feeling very confident, you can offer a money-back guarantee if the customer is not entranced, delighted, and positively starry-eyed.)
Images break up the text of your persuasive content nicely. Images can guide the eyes of the reader around the page, and can also help the reader get additional meaning from the content. For persuasive content, captions are an excellent addition.
Content leading up to something — a sign-up, a petition, a purchase — must include explicit instructions. Sure, you can leave your reader alone to figure it out, or you can help him out with simple instructions to simply fill in his email address below to get new coupons and specials!
Nothing beats going local. Make your content appeal to local markets with clever references to landmarks, events, or local slang. It builds confidence with readers, as well as authenticity.
Persuasive content must be logically arranged on the page. Jumping from voter registration to a particular candidate’s politics and back to polling statistics and ending with the importance of civic duty is going to give your readers visual whiplash. Plan ahead and don’t be afraid to move things around once they are written.
We all like something that makes us think. Give readers something to really bite into and mentally chew on.
While facts are a great foundation to persuasive content, opinions are what make it fun to read. Interview experts, insert your own opinion, or dig around for previous commentary on the topic to liven things up a bit.
You absolutely, positively must use short paragraphs when you’re writing persuasive content. If you want to get it read, break it up.
Please include periods in your persuasive content, and use them frequently. Shorter sentences create balance. When you use a short sentence next to a longer one, it makes the material more lyrical and enjoyable. (Remember to make it swing.)
31. Phone Numbers
Readers interested in following up on your content or looking for additional information should be able to reach you. While we’re all a big fan of instant messages and email, consider a real phone number. It builds trust with readers.
Watch your phrasing in your persuasive content. Your sentences should be personable and easy to read, and they should say something meaningful. Avoid ambiguous words like “one” and “the individual” and try to stay in the active voice as much as possible. Don’t sound like a corporate robot.
Typos happen to the best of us, but we should make a good faith effort to avoid them. Give your persuasive content a bit of spit and polish before you make it live and then go back and read it again periodically in an effort to continuously improve.
34. Post Scripts
Ever wonder why there are so many postscripts in sales letters? It’s because they’re one of the most-read elements of a page. You can use a P.S. in your persuasive content, too. You might use them to to work in some humor, re-state the guarantee, or drive a key benefit home.
There is a place for mindless drivel online, but not in the form of persuasive content. Your content should have presence online and on your site. It should stand alone.
What better way to make people think while reading your material than to ask questions? Rhetorical questions are a highly effective way to engage a reader and transition through text.
Want truly persuasive content? Ask an expert what she thinks and quote her response in your content. You can also respond to a thought-provoking post in your topic, quoting liberally (with links and attribution, of course). Or come up with some clever elements that can work beautifully in quote boxes on the sides of your text.
Copy is written to convince. Copywriting takes an “either/or” approach … you buy or you don’t. But content leaves plenty of room for debate. Rather than forcing an opinion on a reader, use content to build a case for or against something with resounding rationale. No holes in this argument!
39. Seals and Stamps
If your content is explaining or outlining a product or service, go ahead and throw around a few names. Put your stamp or seal of approval at the bottom of the content to make it credible.
40. Short Introduction
Catch the reader’s interest with a short introduction, then get into the meat of the matter.
41. Short Sentences
Long sentences can be effective. But that long sentence had better have at least three shorter friends hanging around. Short sentences are powerful. Use them.
If your content is part of a sales letter, be sure to add a signature. If your content is more formal, consider adding a signature or bio box, even if it’s on your own website. What a great place to learn more about the author, an expert on the subject!
43. Social Connections
Text isn’t just about words, it’s about positioning as well. Paragraphs, punctuation and short sentences help to position words on the page. Think about website spacing as well. White space frames words for maximum power.
If you’re selling something —
even especially an idea — you’ll need testimonials. Get the opinions of others to include in your content and you’ll be presenting a balanced, honest opinion. Balanced content can work surprisingly well at reassuring readers.
Texture is the “feel” of your written piece. Does it look good on the page? Does it flow easily? Are the sections sized correctly and balanced? Are images placed appropriately? Layers of images, text, and balance create an outstanding texture for persuasive content.
Consider the tone of your piece, and stay in character as you’re writing. Are you joking with friends? Warning off potential victims? Creating a sense of emergency? Tone is created through sentence construction, phrasing, and word choice. Short, excited sentences sound urgent! Longer, more fluid sentences help the reader create a feeling of peacefulness and contentment.
Hand in hand with tone is the sound of your voice coming through content. Persuasive content isn’t technical writing, and your unique voice should be present as you’re writing. A strong voice is entertaining, engaging, and enjoyable to read.
Persuasive content is still on the throne …
We know how valuable copywriting is.
But highly persuasive content — dripped out over time — does 90% of the work that single-shot copywriting used to do. That’s why content marketing is this year’s hot topic — and it will be for years to come.
With content you have more chances to present your case, more opportunity to build trusted relationships. You can play with tone, approach, and bias. But the only content worth actually reading is of the fierce variety — persuasive content is most certainly still king.