What is Persuasive Content?

Originally written in 2008, last updated April 2014

Aside from being the name of this blog, what really is Persuasive Content?

Well in this article for CMSWire, David Roe defines it as:

content that aims to influence external audience behavior. It can be created inside and outside the enterprise, or is even created by website visitors. While print has, until now, played a large role in this, this kind of content is increasingly digital and includes video, audio, rich Internet applications, blogs and wikis.

It’s the publication of content that is about more than just a desire to be read, the author wants to encourage site visitors to do something, to participate in their community, to visit their site again, to think a certain way about their company, to participate in a marketing campaign or maybe even buy something.

The term Persuasive Content therefore refers to well written, relevant content that will persuade your site visitors to do something.

So, can we create Persuasive Content by having a knowledge of our audience, an excellent writing style and access to Blogger.com? Or is there more to it than that?

Although of course there are plenty of gifted marketers and writers out there, who can nail a great piece of content that’s spot on for their audience, it’s not always the case. I am not naive enough to believe that if you publish it they will come, but if you’ve got nothing to say or can’t articulate your ideas, values or even describe your product in a coherent way, what is the point of publishing?

So you need to start with a story and a reason to tell it – and make it relevant. Google will tell you that relevant content is the most important part of any SEO strategy and the purpose of any web strategy is to get a message across. So we need to start with content contribution, to create persuasive content, we need good copy to work with.

Let’s imagine our goal is to write an article about a new product.

The techie guys that built the product probably can’t articulate it’s business value and the marketing guys don’t really know how it works, so.. they’ll need to collaborate. We’ll need a framework to do that and good corporate governance dictates that in these litigious times we’ll want to get the copy checked. We also need to figure out a common language that represents the brand; are we serious and stuffy, or more casual?

So, to produce Persuasive Content, you need a publishing process or a content strategy that has such things as a calendar, approval stages, governance, editorial guidelines.

But, we are missing something.. or specifically someone and I read a lot of stuff around content strategy that does. At this point you’ve created some great, approved content, that’s accurate and well written, but how do you know you’ve hit the spot and people are coming back to read more.

We are missing the customer.

We need to understand the audience, we’ve moved on from the simplistic counting the page views in a simplistic web analytics package, we are now able to leverage social and customer data to build real personas, to even predict what we need to create – before we notice the dip on our once treasured page view dashboard.

While we are measuring, we also need metrics that demonstrate that we are moving the needle for this organizations and that tie this content project to a business objective. Maybe it is as crude as web hits, or maybe it’s brand sentiment, more leads or more revenue – the reason we are doing this needs to be clear and measurable. 

We need to split our content by audience, to highlight or mark the content as being about a specific subject. This requires us to tag the content so that we can identify which content is for which audience, to enrich it with meta data. This can be automated to a certain extent, finding relevance in the text through algorithms (like Google) or to automatically find keywords, but we’ll need an extensible system to do that.

There is plenty written about this subject, about getting users to do this essential step, some of it in the context of search – for example Here is a quote from a piece by Tony Byrne at CMS Watch:So the enterprise that cares about the usefulness of its documents will give you the skills, tools, and incentives to drag them, frag them, flag them, and yes, tag them — if only so information managers can ultimately ultimately bag them…legally.

So, to conclude persuasive content is well written, relevant, engaging, useful content that requires the disciplines of content marketing, strategy and management to make that happen.

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