3 things Google can teach you about copywriting

Is Google more persuasive than Billy Mays? Perhaps…

What does Google have in common with the late Billy Mays?

Both are known for being extremely persuasive.

Google is a master at manipulating our emotions and changing our behavior. Think about it: How many of you use Google products because it’s easier, cheaper and – in the case of Google Glass – provides some awesome geek cred?

Yup. I thought so. And part of that reason is how Google markets their services.

Here are some copywriting lessons you can learn from Google – and how you can use them in your own business.

Everyone loves Google. Just ask them.

One of the reasons review sites are so popular is because we rely on them to help make our decisions. Should we go to a new restaurant? Better check Yelp first. Traveling? Check out Trip Advisor before booking that hotel room. We read reviews written by “people like us” to make our decisions.

If you check out Google’s Analytics home page, you’ll see that the first image is a testimonial. As you click into inner pages, you see well-known company logos as “success stories.”  If a company wondered if Google Analytics would work for them, they can read the testimonials and feel more at ease. Other people like Google. So they will too.

Here’s how to use social proof in your own marketing.

I’ve talked quite a bit about the power of testimonials. However, it’s amazing how many sites ignore this easy conversion tip. If you don’t have testimonials on your site, it’s time to add them. If you work with different vertical markets, make sure you have vertical-specific testimonials. It’s really that easy.

FUD Google

FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a big motivator. We want to minimize our pain and maximize our pleasure. So, when we hear about something that may be particularly unpleasant, we do what we can to make our world safe. Think of the millions of dollars people spent trying to calm their Year-2000 fears. Or how people will stop eating certain foods because they read one news article that said that they may be bad for you.

Google is all over the FUD approach. Once upon a time, algorithmic updates were sudden, violent acts. We may have had inklings that something was coming down, but Google didn’t warn us.

Today, Matt Cutts will drop hints about a “possible” update – which causes people to immediately freak out.  Some folks are so afraid of making a wrong algorithmic move that many site owners turn to AdWords in order to guarantee consistent traffic. After all, your main site’s rankings may bounce up and down and possibly plummet – and that’s much too unpredictable.  With PPC, your ads will keep running no matter what (within reason.) Is it any wonder many site owners ignore their main site and rely 100% on PPC? That’s FUD in action.

Billy Mays used to use FUD during his pitches. If you check out this old commercial for Oxyclean, you’ll see how bleach supposedly ruined a pair of jeans – yet, Oxyclean cleaned the jeans without mishap. The message? Other cleansers may hurt your clothes, but Oxyclean is the safe alternative.

How to use FUD on your own site

FUD can be tricky. It’s important to bring up the benefits of making the right decision (read: the decision you want them to make.) Yet, if you push it too far, people may kick back and ignore your pitch.

Check out the approach Gerber Knives uses.  They don’t come out and say, “If you purchase a cheaper knife, it may fail.” But they heavily imply it in the copy:

The message is pretty clear: If you need a knife for a “survival situation,” use a Gerber one. Or else.

Want Google Glass? There are only a few available …

You want me. I know you do.

You want me. I know you do.

The principle of scarcity teaches us that something becomes more attractive to us if we think we can’t have it. If something is only available for a limited time, or to a limited population, we want it more.

Now, think about Google Glass. The glasses are clunky, weird looking and are like the geeky eyeglass equivalent of a Segway. But people wanted their Glass. Badly. When you limit sales of a $2,000 product to “invite only,” it’s amazing how many people will immediately catapult the product purchase to a “need.” After all, there’s only a few invites out there. Don’t you want to be part of the chosen few?

How you can apply this in your business:

Are there ways you can make your product less available – for instance, reminding people that there are just “a few products at that price,” or making it a limited-time offer? If you provide services, you can tell clients that you’re only accepting X new clients every month. It’s amazing how products will compete for your time when they think that you may not have time to take them on.

The next time you read a Google announcement, think about how they positioned their content and see what you can learn. The Big G can be a wonderful teacher …

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Photo credit: “Google Glass Explorer Exchange 36274″ by Ted Eytan

“HI, BILLY MAYS HERE!” by Don