SEO, or content marketing as it is now becoming widely known, is slowly increasing in importance in marketing campaigns. With Google changing its authorship algorithms, and reducing authorship snippets by 15%, competition to produce the highest quality content has seen a huge markup. Thus, the quality of the content has started to matter as well as the level of SEO optimization it has undergone. As competition increases, the content has to be persuasive at many levels in order to persuade readers to buy what they are selling.
The essentials of persuasion
Persuasion techniques usually fall into set categories. They are –
- social proof
First we examine reciprocity. Here, one has to offer someone, a client in this case, some of value so that they reciprocate by giving the seller cash or their interest in return. In a service scenario, the content producers are offering content that will enhance the life of the content consumers, and in turn get page views, reputation and other non-quantifiable services from them.
Consistency is important as inconsistency is seen as a dishonest and untrustworthy trait. Consumers are not receptive to complexity, and consistency reduces that. It increases perceived trustworthiness. Social proof is what a content creator tries to gather when he or she writes. He or she tries to increase page views and shares, so that newcomers see that other people value the content, making them more receptive to it. Too much eagerness in this field will put people off, and thus it has to look natural. It is a thin line.
Likeability is a not new to the marketing industry, and it has never been more important than in today’s hyper-connected, politically correct world. The content has to pander to what or whom the consumer wants or wants to be. This works on the principal of association, which is also applicable in the social proof aspect of persuasion. Authority is another thin line to walk. While it is true that people respond to a strong authority figure, one must realize that a large section of people tend to respond in the exact opposite manner. The content cannot be patronizing, but has to be firm instead. Offer evidence and proof, backing up your content instead of shouting random claims from the rooftop.
Finally, we come to scarcity. Toying with the demand and supply chain used to be a favorite of marketers before the practice was banned. However, it was around for long enough for people to notice that people tend to prize whatever is newly scarce. A case study can be seen in the recent internet sensation, Flappy Bird. When it was taken off the Apple marketplace, iPhones with Flappy Bird on them were seen selling for thousands. Thus, to sell a product, subtly implying that there are only so many left, or that they are running out creates an artificial sense of urgency that many people buy into.
These are the essential principles one should keep in mind while writing a good, persuasive SEO copy. Building on these, there are some specific techniques one can use in a good SEO copy. Some are outlined below.
1. Illustrative examples / Real life stories / User Testimonials
This is something we have seen time and time again, but very rarely successfully, specially the user testimonials part. User testimonials usually seem contrived and extremely artificial. Illustrative examples seem on every other weight loss advertisement often feature wooden-sounding speeches, and the before and after pictures even feature different people! Don’t be that lazy. A good copy will feature compelling stories that will be believable. The testimonials should have some substance behind them. Empty examples will be utterly see-through. Don’t lie to your customers!
2. All explanations should not be convoluted
Like we said before, consumers dislike complexity. Simple things done in simple ways has more mass appeal and works better than complex things done in even more complex ways. Clear explanations reinforce your trustworthiness and increase brand reliability. Think Dove, or Apple. Technical hoo-ha is ignored, and only what is needed is kept in whatever is being presented to the consumers. Figure out the basics of what they like, and downsize from there. Strip away your argument and figure out the simplest way to say it, and use that.
Anticipate – this is a powerful strategy, and in one tiny word too! Anticipate what the reaction is, anticipate what your target audience wants, anticipate arguments against yours, anticipate anticipate anticipate! This is a great backup plan as well, as you always have a plan of action in hand in case things go wrong. If the recent social media disaster with the Black Milk company is anything to learn from, the anticipation of reactions to your content is a huge safety net.
3. Make something easier
To solve a problem is to gain a customer. This is why you see so many apps that claim to organize and make your life easier. Email apps to make email easier, calendar apps to make managing your dates easier, and writing apps to make that easier – you have them all! To gain a customer, solve a problem that they face every day. Simplify their life. Complication is something consumers dislike, like I have stressed many times before.
4. Engage their senses
Copy that engages more than one sense has been seen to be more effective than a one-dimensional copy. Some people prefer oral representations, which are more fun and dramatic by nature. Other people are visualizers and like everything laid out, clean and neat. Engage different types of people by having content in different styles. This will make sure you are appealing to various groups of people, and increasing and widening your user base. This will also increase your likeability!
5. Show prospective gains
Kahneman and Tversky were the first to explain how humans make decisions especially in a crisis situation. If you show your client or consumer the gains he or she stands to secure in the future with a decision they make right now, they are sure to be more receptive to your product. A positive prospect, or high projects future gains are a big motivator for consumers. Thus we have phrases like “value-for-money”, which shows consumers that their initial investment will pay itself many times over.
Thus, we see that there is more to a good SEO article than just words. Psychological techniques, tried-and-tested methods and the market trends all play into it. A good SEO article should convince you to buy your own product. It shouldn’t be artificial, shouldn’t be contrived or forced. It should seem natural and flow, so to speak, from the creator to the consumer.