How do I create compelling and persuasive website content that really spurs visitors on to take action?

What should I add to my product page or checkout process that will ensure the buyer completes their purchase?

As marketers, we’re always striving for the answers to these conversion challenges.

Always tweaking content and testing web page elements to create that perfect landing page or product page.

But, conversion comes about as a result of how you’ve made people feel.

We need to go beyond Google and even our awesome Beacon analytics platform, and learn how to use human psychological frameworks.

Until you understand how your audience makes decisions, what influences them, what their intent is – conscious and more importantly, unconscious – you can’t influence their behaviour.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” ~ Peter Drucker

That’s why marketers, conversion optimisers and copywriters use specific persuasion principles. These principles let you tap into your buyer’s psyche and gently nudge them to perform the required actions.

CXL Institute offers a mini-degree on conversion optimisation and it’s on this course, that I have dipped my toe into the waters of human psychology and am learning how to use it to increase online conversions.

Let’s start with the brain.

 Sell to the “old brain”

As you’ve probably heard before, people make decisions using both their emotional and rational parts of the brain. The emotional side often wins, but people justify their decisions rationally (often without even being aware of it).

You may have also heard about our old brain, which is our primal brain and our new brain. Our old brain is very emotional so the key to emotional sales is selling to the primal brain.

In human psychology, we have a rational brain and primal brain

The old brain is selfish

The buyer’s ultimate decision is based on self-interest. Even in B2B purchases, emotional drivers such as fear of job loss or need for status, will influence the purchase – which is why price is often not the most important factor.

Serve both brains and convert more

When we’re selling a product, we need to make a compelling emotional and rational case.

Once your target customer has made a decision that they want what you sell, they will want to be able to justify the purchase. Hence, back everything up with specifics, so they can rationalize the decision.

Take action > check your web copy to see if you are appealing to both emotional and rational parts of the brain.

How can we use human psychology to make magic happen on our website?

Now we get into Robert Cialdini’s 7 principles of persuasion (used to be 6).

Robert Cialdini's 7 principles of persuasion 1. Reciprocity

This is based on the principle that we’re all wired to want to return favours and pay our debts. This translates to the online world in how we’ll give our email address in return for gated content.

2. Commitment

Put simply, people are likely to continue with what they’ve started. We’ve all had an experience where we have initiated an online sign-up or purchase but then there’s friction in the process. A super long registration form or forced requirement to create an account when all you want is a quick guest checkout.

We have to ditch the sign-up or abandon the cart because we really don’t have time, but we desperately wish we could just quickly do what we’ve now committed to.

Interestingly, if you’re like me, you will create an account but only after purchase, not before.

3. Social Proof

We have a basic human need to feel validated by what others are doing.

The CXL conversion optimisation course gives a lovely example of this that illustrates this unavoidable, human phenomenon. It’s the 1960s elevator experiment. Basically, whatever the majority of people in an elevator do, an individual who joins this group inside the elevator will follow suit. For example, if the group faces the back of the elevator, the individual will do the same, even if it looks funny! The vast majority of people prefer to simply belong to a group rather than think independently.

4. Authority

People have a herd mentality of following people that look like they have authority. This one feels quite similar to social proof, however they are different.

Social proof is based on numbers and lots of them. Whereas this principle is based on perceived expertise, status or power.

Celebrity endorsement is a classic example of leveraging the authority principle of persuasion.

5. Liking

The more you like someone, the more you’ll be persuaded by them. Liking is based on having things in common.

So for instance, if you’re a pet store and you show pictures of your staff with pets people are more likely to buy from you.

Similarly, it can go a long way to have pictures of your people on your social media showing that they’re also into the same sports or shared passions i.e care for the environment or having a well-executed “About us” which shows the similarities between your people and your target customers,.

6. Scarcity

Welcome to Cialdini’s 6th and most popular principle, scarcity. Companies the world-over know about human psychology and use scarcity to boost conversions.

We are more drawn to something that’s in short supply. You’ll no doubt be more than familiar with scarcity at work on Booking.com or Ebay with ‘only 2 left types of messaging displayed prominently.


Or indeed, more recently during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve experienced the scarcity principle first-hand in the toilet-roll aisle!

There are two elements of scarcity that you can use:

  • Quantity (only 2 items left!)
  • Time (last 5 days to join!)

But do not, under any circumstances, fake scarcity.

7. Unity

This was added to the 6 principles more recently. This principle is all about the sense of belonging and how we need to be part of a group or community. It’s about feeling connected and belonging to something bigger.


Human psychology is a massive topic and there’s much more to discover such as neuromarketing, the Fogg method and cognitive biases, all of which are covered on the brilliant CXL Institute mini-degree.