The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Copy (and How to Beat It)

The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Copy (and How to Beat It)

Reader Comments (230)

  1. I totally agree with you on this “Everything on your site needs to show that you can be trusted. Real contact information. Showing your photograph. Displaying seals for anti-hacker technology and the Better Business Bureau on your shopping cart. FAQs that actually answer questions. Clear, reassuring calls to action.”
    There are too many scam around on the net and making it in details and showing proof and REAL testimonial clearly is absolutely important in conversion, especially testimonial, nowadays testimonial without a picture of the person and without the full name really makes me think is all fake.

  2. I experienced all this first-hand when planning our destination wedding. Everything had to be done via email/internet, so choosing vendors was a lengthy process! I steered clear of those who had minimal information on their websites, or who wanted me to send a check before speaking with them. The ones who got our business were open, honest, and allowed us the time we needed to decide. Not the ones who were jumping in our faces to make a decision. In the end we were happy with all of them, and would now recommend them to friends.

  3. As you said, plain old decency works wonders.

    That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep in conversation with your audience, so they can get to know, like and trust you.

    Third Tribe FTW!

  4. I swear I was just talking about those Sea Monkeys with my husband 2 days ago after he asked me what I wanted next for our aquarium. We talked about how disappointing that scam was as children and you’re right, things like that totally feed the troll!

    Killer post today, Sonia!

  5. Great article. I was always so annoyed with my mother for not letting me buy those sea monkeys – they looked so cool in the comic book pictures! And boy, do I understand what she was talking about now.

    Right now I’m having just this debate with myself about booking 2 nights in a great looking B&B on our summer trip. But they haven’t responded to the booking enquiry I sent via their website. It’s been 3 days now. So, despite the fact that it looks wonderful and the price is right, the Troll is asking me whether the service will be any better offline than it is online.

    Right now, it may be easier to do another online search to find another B&B and if I do that, they’ve lost my business forever.

  6. @Dave 🙂 We’ll take over the world.

    @Vandy, great example. And my bet is that the B&B is just run by 1 or 2 people and they don’t have a great system for getting back to everyone. Or they took a few days off. But still, that troll is there leaning over our shoulder.

    It’s not an easy problem to solve (especially when it’s just a solo individual like a blogger), but it’s impossible if we don’t know to watch for it.

  7. Great article. I’d like to add one observation to it. I’ve noticed that the most important factor to being seen as ‘trustworthy’ is not *necessarily* all these little p’s and q’s that must be minded, but rather the surfer’s assessment of your intentions (the ‘plain old decency’ remark came close). The goal is transmit the sincerity of your intentionality. These things mentioned above can sometimes help, but they can also sometimes hurt, depending on the blog. A ‘homemade crafts from Caledon, north of Brampton’ blog that had too many business badges on its commerce pages and too constant a flow of traffic-generating updates would strike a false note for me, for example.

    I have not mastered this yet myself, but making your intentions in blogging actually very clear and straightforward goes the furthest in winning *my* trust. This is the one thing that I am always trying to make better because my blogs are too complex and because my blog persona is partly fictionalised, my interests get very cross-pollinated and then my pages get confusing. It’s a problem.

  8. For some reason I can’t stop laughing about the Sea Monkeys! It only goes to show you how much marketing has changed. Makes you wonder what kind of legacy we are leaving for the present generation of kids – and if they even notice or care.

  9. I like this page more and more. Thanks for this. It’s so true. In all places of existance, Fear is Destruction. Of course, that means that Love is Creation. Nope, not what you think lol. It’s just that it isn’t Love/Fear, but Love/Create and the unrelated Fear/Destruct – this applies in all places but it is especially so when it comes to a customer’s confidence in what you have to offer. One of the first things you tend to learn (if you learn – a lot of places are not led well in the real world, and success online in itself is *usually* a staple of good leadership, I am learning. commmas… ) in a position where conversion is your duty, register or desk, phone or door to door, sales or not, the confidence a person has in you is of utmost importance.

    In the absence of fear, all things are possible. Wrap your mind around what I just said. All things. I hope no one out there is so scared in their own lives that they look for the quick route and start playing dress up and not actually putting the time, the effort, the love into their customers experience. Translating that online is rewarding for them and the webmaster, regardless of the application.

    Great read, thank you. I like a lot so far. I’m always popping in here from Twitter – it’s going to destroy rapidly evolve this business. Twitter, I mean. Gotta love it, though.

  10. @Jeff, you want to know something funny, though? Sea-Monkeys still exist, and their marketing looks exactly like it always did. On the web instead of in an ad at the back of a comic book, but otherwise just like the ads I fell for as a kid.

  11. I guess there’s a fine line to walk between building trust and building up a group of people who love your content but will never buy from you because they love the content…

    And of course it helps to kill the troll when you have big names endorsing you because nothing sells like (even a modicum of) fame – just look at Oprah’s recommendations.

  12. Awesome article Sonia!

    I’ve often wondered if this makes me the worst salesperson or the best, but I DON’T sell anything to someone who doesn’t want the product/service. If it isn’t right for them, I quickly move on to the next product or customer. This helps ensure a low return rate of course, but it also helps to build trust. It means I’m listening to what the customer is saying.

    Some people take pride in being able to “sell ice to an Eskimo,” but I’ve just never been able to enjoy that. I don’t want to convince someone my product is right for them when it isn’t and then leave them feeling stupid for wasting their money.

    Whether I’m selling services or products, I consider my job to be finding the right products and services for each specific customer. No force, no lies, no garbage. Make them happy and they will stay a customer for life.

  13. Sonia, wonderful and well-written post. I seem to do better with facing my dilemmas when I can anthropomorphize (or theriomorphize or mythomorphize or whatever) them, and between you and Havi I’m beginning to realize that doing that isn’t just silly wishful thinking. Thank you.

  14. This is so true! I can’t remember how many sites I have gone to and been turned away in fear of them stealing my money or being in fear of “Scam Artists”. Sometimes I will even look the company up on google to see any negative reviews. Its so important to provide valuable content to your readers in order to sell them anything and honesty is key.

  15. I absolutely loved this article. Outstanding stuff ! I can feel that ‘stickiness’ factor to it. It’s going to linger in my mind for a long time to come and will probably change the way I blog, forever !

  16. Can’t agree more. Last year I was writing for an “e-commerce solutions” company that told online retailers to appear trustworthy and appear to offer a valuable product. It really doesn’t cost any more to be honest about how you do business.

  17. The carnival followed by the sea monkeys are incredible, relevant examples and so easy to identify with.

    Did you say sea monkeys still exist? I might have to buy some for old time’s sake!

  18. Great call to action. Please everyone pay attention to this as it is invaluable in life.

    “So let’s declare war on the trolls. Be extraordinarily trustworthy. Show your value. Put your customers first. Keep your promises.”

  19. Sea-Monkeys are just brine shrimp?

    I didn’t know until just now. As a kid, I wanted them too but could not convince my parents.

    Sites without real contact info remain a puzzle. They want your money but make themselves hard to reach!?!

    Sea-Monkeys are an excellent example in an excellent article.
    Thanks for revealing ways to dispatch the nasty trolls.

  20. My first time here, thanks to Seth Godin. Very good article with examples we can all relate to. We try to hammer home every day that building trust is the key for our success. Not only trust for our customers but with our vendors, employees and the communities we serve. Thanks for the excellent read.

  21. “Put your customers first”

    So much more accurate (and actionable) than “the customer is always right.” Thank you for that.

  22. Sonia, very well done. Scam artists are alive and well, especially the get rich quick ‘make millions from the comfort of your living room’ types.

    Web sites truly need to scream TRUST ME, but the real challenge is getting the team behind them to be as genuine as possible so that the message is clearly sent to the prospect / consumer. Transparency is the only way to do business now, people have way too many resources available that can discredit you or your company instantly.

    Thanks for a great article.

  23. Good information here. It is so important when building your presence online to establish that sense of trust. With a global online business, people trust you less even than if they met you in person so it is important to give them the sense that you are a real person. Audio is good too. And video. Some great tips here – you can thank Seth for sending me this way! He linked up to you in his blog!

  24. Whoa, so I’m always teeter-tottering with a troll, am I? Excellent reminder; it really is about those honest-to-goodness basics. I need to make sure I have ample “trust-weight” on my side. @rickshatto

  25. My favorite thing about Sea Monkeys was how they showed them riding on each other’s backs in the ad. Turns out that there’s only three things that sea monkeys do: eat, poop, and breed. So the giving rides is in reality, um, procreation.

    As someone mentioned, Sea Monkeys are still being sold today. In fact, they were first marketed in 1957 (although the Sea Monkeys name didn’t arise until 1962). The story of Sea Monkeys is an inspirational success story that shows how one man, Harold von Braunhut (creator of X-Ray Specs) created a brand that has lasted for over 50 years.

  26. Brine shrimp…what next, I can’t grow muscles like that Mac from the Charles Atlas ads. Wow the disappointment grows. Trust is a progression so your marketing and sales needs to be a progression. Go to deep too early and the sales becomes awkward. Provide the right information gradually over a period of time will help to build trust. Get too granular to soon and you can unravel all your hard work.

  27. Trust is the lubricant of business. Low levels of trust make transactions difficult. It is built by honesty, clear open communication, following through on promises and relationships. But building trust is not just for commerce. It is important for politics, education, health care, faith, sport, entertainment – all aspects of life.

    Reading the names of the people making the previous comments is interesting. How many are real names? Can I trust them?

    I read this article because Seth recommended it and I trust him and I have read other trustworthy articles from Sonia before. Great article. Let’s put it into action and keep killing the trolls.

  28. Sonia,

    I’m still bitter about the Sea Monkeys!! I just couldn’t believe that I’d been screwed over like that…and I think layering that experience with 20 years as a New Yorker made me very cynical. Clients/consumers who are looking to buy want to ensure they don’t waste money, get mocked or look like an idiot – hell, it’s what we all shoot for – it’s good to step back and remind ourselves that our clients/consumers are just like us…fantastic posting!!

  29. You missed one the biggest reasons I abandon the cart. The “Tease” – 14 day Free trial, all I have to do is give you my credit card and opt out when the trial expires. The negative option is one the main reasons I rarely subscribe to any pay feeds. Either give it to me or tell me what it costs up front.

  30. Unfortunately my industry (Fitness) seems to be filled with trolls.
    I’m going to do all I can not to appear like a troll.


  31. Yeah, Charles Atlas is still around too selling his dynamic tension body building courses, helping skinny guys smash the bullies who kicked sand in their faces. How many guys of my generation fell for that? Talk about inviting mockery. But hey Simone, that was a guy thing, I’m sure. Little sea monkeys …procreating…held no appeal for me.

  32. Thanks for the great insight into one of the strongest emotions that drive people. In the small business markets where we work, FEAR is the biggest demotivator followed closely by SHAME. To have success business owners need to overcome both with a large dose of COURAGE.

  33. Sonia,

    Trust and dependability. Do what you say you are going to do.
    It’s about giving something not getting something.

    Thanks for the post.


  34. Hi Seth, Maybe you remember me ? Call it a troll , whatever, people buy something because they trust the buyer. 89 % of every sale is made because the buyer likes the salesperson. i.e. Dale Carnegie course first day of class they teach you that. Building trust online is hard, that,s what Twitter is for, for now. But the internet is evolving, one day you will show up on your screen and make the pitch yourself , online, it,s coming baby. visionmaker

  35. This advice is especially relevant to the online world. At least in the offline world you can (for the most part) check out a store, pick up the product and take a look at it, talk with sales people face to face, etc. Online you often don’t have that luxury.

    Before purchasing online with those I haven’t bought from before, I’ll visit anti-scam sites to see if there’s been anything negative reported. I won’t even bother with this step if the site looks in the slightest bit dodgy.

    It’s sad to think that anti-scam sites are necessary and making judgement calls on appearances commonplace. Damn trolls!

  36. I happen to have a soft spot for Sea Monkeys, even though they are nothing but fish food. It’s something about the way I imagine them to be rather than the boring brine shrimp they really are.

    But aside from that anomaly, you’ve presented a very accurate and sound metaphor. So many times I’ve been on the receiving end of an offer that sounds so right, yet I fail to take action. The troll lives.

    Now that we’re here creating offers of our own, terminating the troll is the best favor we can do for our customers.

  37. Exactly. That’s why 2 paragraphs of copy just isn’t going to work if you sell anything with a decent price tag!

    Too often it seems the person writing the copy is assuming everyone’s going to want it–instead of assuming that they won’t.

    It’s not to be negative–but if you start writing from the latter assumption, you’re going to do a better job of quashing the prospect’s concerns.

  38. Be impeccable with your word and the rest will fall into place.

    As far as the trolls…being daubed, as much as it stings,reminds us why we are committed to having our actions match our promise.

    Seth thanks for your trusted referrals, and Sonia thanks for the insightful, articulate blog.


  39. Excellent post,

    Those trolls just seem to get bigger and uglier as time passes huh? You’ve painted a very good word picture of how the whole process works and have equipped us to do a better job of understanding our prospects fears, that we ourselves experience as customers of others products and websites.

    Nice work.

  40. Wow, great points. This is exactly how I feel during buying. I’m worried that I’m wasting money, or making a stupid decision, or people will laugh at me for making a silly decision.

    Thanks for pointing it out. Trust, honesty… an open hand…certainly help, but it takes time to build this up.

  41. I’m not sure if anyone else stated this, but one reason I abandon after looking at a product is that the price is nowhere to be found other than going through the motions of purchasing. I think there would be less abandons if more websites listed the price and not force people to adopt this practice. Having to do this is annoying and leaves a bad imprression of the merchant.

  42. Sonia,

    My troll was a big hairy bastard. When I first started researching Internet marketing I stumbled onto this site with a long sales page. By the end I was hooked, but what sold me was a bit of text that said, “this sale ends on {that day’s date}” I could not believe I was so lucky to find this site on the last day of the sale, so I bought the product immediately.

    I went back the next day, happened to glance at the page that sold me, and noticed the last day of the sale was changed to that day. Now, I coded websites so I knew something was up. I did a source view of the code and realized this bastard marketer was using a javascript date script to advance the “last day of the sale” to the current day each day. So each day was the last day of the sale.

    I decided that day to get a troll and donkey tattooed on my ass!
    Just kidding, but I’ll never forget it.

  43. Thoroughly enjoyed your post and learned lots from reading it , thanks for sharing this great insightful information 🙂

  44. @Shane, yeah, ouch. It’s harder to do without the tricks, it takes more creativity and more work, but in the end it’s the only thing that keeps working. IMO.

  45. I want to go on record as saying I wanted those damn sea monkeys and my mom said “NO” absolutely not, it is a waste of money. That didn’t make me feel any better, but your point is well taken.

    You are right, we have to be credible and honest and put forth a good effort if we want to be successful. It is a small price to pay 🙂 but well worth it.

  46. Great advice, Sonia. When I’m shopping online, I’ll often spend a few extra dollars (or more) to use a more reputable vendor. How do I know they are a more reputable vendor? By all the points you mention. If there is anything fishy about the site, like hard to find contact info, poor grammar, canned templates/cheesy design, etc. then I go elsewhere.

  47. Thats a funny way to put it … lol … I’m totally with on Sea-Monkeys thing.

  48. I can think of two ways to shrink the Troll of Fear:

    1. Have a Stand-Up Guarantee. Tell prospects/customers they can take as much time as they want to look through or try out your stuff and get their money back if they’re not tickled pink with their purchase.

    2. The Process. In your copy, show them HOW, SPECIFICALLY your product or service will help them. Tell them what to expect once they start using your product.

  49. Trolls HATE relationships. They have none (except with their hairdresser who gives them those cool little tufts atop their domes).
    The way I see it, a good basis for scattering the trolls is two fold: 1) building a relationship thru your marketing content: i.e., relevant and useful content, no hype, and 2) building a relationship thru your sales force: same idea as content, relevant dialogue, and act as a trusted source.
    If all else fails, buy a goat! If memory serves me right, Billy Goat Gruff was the best troll-killer in fairytale land. You are so spot-on with this post Sonia! Thank you! Loraine Antrim

  50. Another awesome article. Man, you do keep coming up with awesome gems don’t you?

    I’m going to need to add some changes to my blog to reveal transparency.

    Brillaint article to pass to people I know. They’d love the value of the article but to also implement in what I do too. Thanks!

  51. Great article and so true. Seems hard to convince many business however as they so often only think in the short term and “hard-sell” seems to offer instant gratification.


  52. As someone with a hairdressing business, I would actually like to note that while most hairdressers do indeed cater to the trolls, not all of us fit that mould.

    Many, perhaps even most, hairdressers promise far more than they deliver, and charge fees for services they do not explicitly state at the beginning or during the course of the appointment – this has to be the most common complaint we hear from new clients. We consider the most important aspects of business to be openness & honesty- we list our prices before the beginning of the service so clients know what they will be up for, and do our best to listen to the client to give them what they want – not what we think they should want. And our business is growing even in tough economic times.

    But we’re happy enough that most hairdressers just continue to feed the trolls – they don’t generally pay too well, and we prefer to serve people 🙂

  53. I record video testimonials right in my office. Have a small “studio” setup just for that purpose.

    If you can make a prospect watch 5 videos of your customers raving about you, they are less likely to call your competitors. 🙂

  54. Great article, I feel more human when I read your article and hear other remarks. I have been in sales for 10 years and I believe we all start out as “Trolls” but if you learn good ethics that troll will vanish for good.

  55. @Salvie, it doesn’t help that most “how to sell” books are manuals in creating bigger and stronger trolls. Most closing techniques, for example, may work (sometimes, though not as well as they once did), but they often ruin the relationship for future business.

  56. This is what i am looking for. i have to learn more on how to develop current skills, by learning from the past.
    thanks Sonia

  57. Great post. I think you’ve helped a lot of people realise where they have been going wrong. I think people often wonder why sales aren’t being generated and are unsure of the right way to go about changing it.

  58. Excellent post, thanks. I’m new at this and your article is very useful.

  59. Fear is an amazingly powerful process. For a number of years, as a business coach, I have been looking for and trying to ease fears: fears of baby boomer entrepreneurs that they will not be adequate in business, fears of spouses that the businesses will fail, fears of employees that their jobs are at risk. But your article clarified the issues of fear in the hearts and minds of prospects in a whole new way.

    Just a few moments before finding your article, I struggled with a small online purchase. As I thought about it, the fear of wasting money and the fear of feeling stupid both came to my mind. In the midst of being frustrated by what quickly turned out to be a bad decision, I came across your post and understood exactly what just happened to me as a consumer.

    As entrepreneurs, bloggers, or creators of various types, we make decisions and move on. It is that strength that makes us less subject to the trilogy of fears you listed. But we must remember that those that we create for may not have that same level of fortitude. And even we may be weaker and subject to our fears at some times more than others. Thanks for bringing that home to me.

    Shallie Bey
    Smarter Small Business Blog

  60. @Shallie, that’s always a good point. Those of us who run businesses (whether large or small) typically have a different mindset from those who don’t. So we always have to be careful about overapplying our own values or assumptions.

    Pace and Kyeli call it “The Usual Error,” which is assuming that what you want/like/believe is the same as what the other person wants/likes/believes. Empathy is a wonderful thing, but the Usual Error is its unhelpful darker side.

  61. Great post! Yep, the ultimate goal is to eliminate any doubt that the customer may have about getting ripped off, or having their personal information auctioned off to the highest bidder. You have to keep the content fresh, and if you have a blog, keep posting everyday because customers and onlookers do pay attention to the dates, and anything that was written more than 6 months ago is a big sign that you’re not monitoring your site much. Of course, I have to follow my own advice… too often I allow writer’s block to seep in and I take a while before writing a new post.

  62. People only buy if they can trust the seller. I don’t do any business with any company which does not provide contact information and just have contact form on the website. If someone is doing honest business then there is no need to hide behind walls.

  63. Love the troll! You’ve said it all – thanks for a great post. I think most of us have fallen for the sea monkeys and yet they are still available. Another whole generation duped into believing false advertising.

  64. Seth Godin only gives the best and promotes the best. I love the Troll theory… it is refreshing to see this type of writing – clear, concise and fluff free!!

  65. You should read Gregory Berns book Iconoclast. In it he describes the 3 main types of fear.

    Fear of the Unknown

    Fear of Failure

    Fear of Looking Stupid

    Being aware of the type of fear you may be fostering is the first step towards fixing the problem

  66. The troll analogy works great here. This is one of the best articles I’ve read on converting your leads.
    Your potential customers can’t read your mind that you offer a money back guarantee, or that you pride yourself on customer service. So the note on “transparency” is a good one to follow. Let them know so they have nothing to be afraid of.
    Well, i’m off to “polish” my landing pages. 🙂
    Thanks for the good read.

  67. I’m often like this with Amazon. I get the book in the trolley and almost press the button but then I begin to question myself.
    Do I really need this book?
    Will my life be any better for buying it?
    etc, etc…
    So I kill the sale. Sometimes though I do go back at a later date and buy it.

  68. I agree with Peter Murray on this “…thanks to Seth Godin» and this “I read this article because Seth recommended it and I trust him and I have read other trustworthy articles from Sonia before.» Yes! Thanks to Seth! Thanks to Sonia!

  69. As someone with a brand new website, I’m learning the ropes. I spent a year polishing it and getting it ready to go and launched in April. On my site, I hope I convey that my product is high quality and my content timely. From my Google Analytics, I can see people spend a lot of time on the site, and view lots of pages. But that isn’t leading to many sales – yet (optimistic though!) as my number of people finding my site are still pretty low. This article was really helpful. I actually feel a high degree of responsibility, when someone buys a t-shirt, to make sure it is shipped on time, with a nice note, and that the product itself is good quality. So hard to convey that in copy! But I try.

  70. You know how to really kill the troll?

    Answer every question or concern they have about your product or service before they buy it. If every question is answered, the fear lessens. For 11 years I’ve been creating sites that sell pretty well… the main thing I do as I create the site is focus on answering everything I possibly can about the product or service before I ask the person to buy it.

    Works well.

    I loved the analogy of the sea monkeys… everyone stared at that ad and asked themselves… is this FOR REAL? And, even as kids you knew it had to be too good to be true. I remember someone in my family getting those things and as we added water to these dried up pieces of insect and nothing happened… I was laughing really loudly.

    I never bought the sea monkeys. But you can bet there are people buying their equivalent right now online somewhere!

  71. Indeed, the very first factor we need from our prospects is trust. We should gain it by giving value to our audience.

    Being a real and professional businessman plays a large role in increasing the conversion rate. People need to know who you are, what you offer, why buy from you and how you can guarantee your product.

    Remember that people are at different levels of a purchase cycle. Some are looking for information, some are searching for more detail and some are ready to buy. We have to provide our presentation in a form that could answer all of their questions.

    These tips are also applicable for affiliate marketing. The only difference is that we don’t own the product. So, our promotion may look like as hype. However, a good copywriter is also able to market other people’s products. That’s why it is recommended to give the product a try before promoting, something that may not be doable for many beginners.

    Thanks for this high-value article that teaches many aspects of copywriting for improving our conversion rate.



  72. It goes back at least to the snake oil salesman. This is why new science is often slow to be accepted. We were told Global Cooling was happening in the 70’s. Becomes hard to accept that Global Warming is happening now. The hurricane predictions have been high since Katrina reducing our belief in that system.

    Every lie or overreaching promise chisels at the faith and trust of the audience. Politicians do the same thing. Lie and lie and then a good one comes by or at least a decent one, and we may not believe he isn’t lying. Then when we do vote for someone and he gets busted for something, trust is gone and apathy sets in.

    Well written article.

  73. I use StatCounter (the free version) so I can see when people ‘troll’ my website, end up at the ‘place an order’ page and then disappear. It’s heart-stopping, as I wonder what turned them off. Thanks for the hints.

  74. This is a post for every blogger and the concept can also be useful to ecommerce stores. People do not buy until they are absolutely certain that they can trust you and the product is exactly what they are seeking and worth the money. Online sellers have two tasks:

    Do everything you can to help them feel comfortable buying from you. Put a photo of your business on your about page. (Conversions go up when people visit that page just before checking out!)

    Make sure you can be contacted. Provide phone numbers and an address on your site. Consider using services such as BuySafe, OnlineBBB, TrustGuard, ShopperScanned, SiteSafe, Authorize Net, McAfee Secure and others.

    The second task is to provide them all the information you possibly can on each product. Consider using more than one image. Be sure your descriptions contain everything they need to know: size, color, material.

    Unless you answer EVERY question they have they are NOT going to buy! Consider manning Live Chat as often as you can. Volusion has an excellent free option. Being available to answer a quick question will greatly increase your conversion rate.

  75. Thanks for this article Sonia. I sell B2B — advertising in a local green magazine. I was struggling with whether to put my personal photo on my homepage. It seemed very arrogant to me and frankly I didn’t really want my mug all over the place, but you convinced me. I think putting my pic right next to my guarantee makes a WORLD of difference in just making my rather outlandish guarantee look 3 million times more legit.

    P.S. Thesis rocks!

  76. This will be the #1 trend in blogging from here on out,

    “Trustworthiness, transparency, credible authority, lots of high-value content, and just plain old decency are your best weapons.”

    Sonia hit it right on the head!

  77. Use of the truth and transparency are so rare on the web, few people will believe you. Especially when people arrive at your site out of the blue, as a result of a search. Kind of like pulling off the Interstate at a random exit and expecting a gourmet diner.

  78. Great article. I’d like to add one observation to it. I’ve noticed that the most important factor to being seen as ‘trustworthy’ is not *necessarily* all these little p’s and q’s that must be minded, but rather the surfer’s assessment of your intentions (the ‘plain old decency’ remark came close). The goal is transmit the sincerity of your intentionality. These things mentioned above can sometimes help, but they can also sometimes hurt, depending on the blog. A ‘homemade crafts from Caledon, north of Brampton’ blog that had too many business badges on its commerce pages and too constant a flow of traffic-generating updates would strike a false note for me, for example.

  79. Great article. I was referred by someone else to read this and I have to say that I am glad that I did. It was comical and informative at the same time.

    I like the idea of killing the troll. Now if I could just get them from stealing my socks from the dryer, I might be happier 🙂 .

  80. Don’t forget that some people don’t sell decent products, they sell over-priced scam. Would you call people that warn others from such scams also call trolls? SY

  81. This is so true! I can’t remember how many sites I have gone to and been turned away in fear of them stealing my money or being in fear of “Scam Artists?. Sometimes I will even look the company up on google to see any negative reviews.

  82. Good post. I’d like to mention…fear of the unknown to the list. This comes into play during the order process. The more you can show them whats going to happen….the less fear…and more conversions.

  83. I agree! In a sea of “copywriting” advice, gonzo headlines and squeeze pages….the underlying current should still be trust and quality.

    As a budding internet marketer, its good to have a reality check like this.

  84. What a great thing for me to read just now as I attempt to launch a diet coaching program. The very things you mentioned about trsutworthiness and transparency are part of my strategy. The proprietary domain is a great tip, but starting from zero means I need to have at least the first client to be able to afford a domain! Networking is going to have to be the main focus as I get started….

  85. For some reason I can’t stop laughing about the Sea Monkeys! It only goes to show you how much marketing has changed. Makes you wonder what kind of legacy we are leaving for the present generation of kids – and if they even notice or care.

  86. I remember reading a blog post about a site that couldn’t figure out why they were making so few sales. It turned out that they had a coupon code field on the buy page. What happened when people saw this was that they would go searching the net looking for a coupon code which wasn’t available. So thinking that they should have gotten a discount they didn’t go through with the sale.

  87. Thanks for a great article.

    We have experimented with how to best convey our trustworthiness
    and honesty and have found that the more we reassure the customer
    the more sales we make. You are right on.

    Often times buyers of our “do it yourself” products come back to order premium services of higher quality at a higher cost. The confidence
    having been built with the first sale.

    The main challenge we have is breaking through to our audience
    that we are knowledgeable and competent. This was a tough nut
    to crack at first and continues to be.

    I actually think that there are not as many scams out there are
    we think there are. However a small percentage hurts all of us
    honest businesses badly.

    Your key sentence was “Every detail matters.”.
    Even the tiniest detail can energize the troll.

    Thanks for a great article.

  88. I agree wholeheartedly with everything here! I receive more comments from clients and prospects who choose me over my competitors simply because I give my phone number. I tell them they might hear kids in the background… they know I am a real person sitting in suburbia somewhere-much like them!

  89. Years ago I attended a seminar on business ethics by a barrister called Paul Etheridge.
    A member of the audience asked: “How can I get my clients to trust me?”. Paul replied: “Always be trustworthy….”
    Another asked “How can I get people to believe that I’m sincere?”. Again, Paul replied: “Always be sincere…”

    That lesson has stood me in good stead ever since.
    As Ghandi said: “BE your message to the World….”.


  90. Bit of a waste too that most copywriters spend the first half of their article instilling fear in the reader’s mind, to be able to offer a ‘solution’ to that ‘problem,’ only to find out at the end that the troll has outgrown the demand…

  91. Oh how well I relate to the troll fear. It has become so great that I wrote an article condemning squeeze pages not long ago.

    I know squeeze pages have their place, but I have been burned so frequently, I will now close a link immediately if it even looks like a squeeze page. In particular I have a hatred for those offers which I have in the past decided to accept, because I think the product will actually hold some value for me, only to be redirected (after payment, but before I get to download the product), to a series of squeeze pages offering upgrades, additional products etc.

    It is extremely frustrating to purchase a product then be lost in a maze of squeeze pages without having access to the original purchase. I guess this is one practice trustworthy bloggers would do well to avoid.

    I wanted to mention another fear troll that I have been experiencing, one that is very bad for business if I want to earn anything from my sites. I have become so tired of sales pitches that I am almost afraid to put advertising on my own pages for fear it will look like one long sales pitch.

    I have managed to overcome the fear to the extent that I will allow a small adsense block to hide meekly on the page somewhere, and that is it.

    I am having great difficllty overcoming the idea that advertising somehow devalues my content.

  92. It’s all about “last minute resistance”. It’s all about trust. Yet it’s not enough to be trustworthy, you have to *demonstrate* trustworthiness. You might know that your product is great – but the question is, how can you clearly and effectively *convey* that you the site visitor?

  93. I’ve read this several times. Each time, I take away a different set of thoughts. I should print it out and tape it to my mirror. Then, each morning before I recite “The man in the glass” poem, I can read it and be set for the days projects.

    Here’s my daily inspiration:

    When you get what you want in your struggle for self
    And the world makes you king for a day,
    Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
    And see what that man has to say.

    For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
    Whose judgment upon you must pass.
    The fellow whose verdict counts most in you life
    Is the one staring back from the glass.

    Steve Benedict

  94. Great article. I like the analogy!!! I tend to get a lot of abandoned carts. There are a couple things in your article I do do but there are a few things I could add to my site that your article made me think of. A pic of me on the About Me page, my phone number on every page, “site last updated” statement so people know it’s a live site. I’m sure I’ll come up with more but that’s what I have off the top of my head. Thanks for the motivation to make changes!

  95. Also I don’t want to leave out that the design works better if it’s based on a grid system. I was reading many articles on this subject earlier today.

  96. Do you advocate any testing of your landing page? Do you think that a site such as Performable ( ) helps you in that regard?
    How about sites like A/B Tests ( ) which also helps to share and showcase the tests done by the avid testing community?

    While I agree with what you are saying, without testing how do you learn what copy works and which one isn’t working?

  97. I’m a little late to the game, but this was an excellent post. Our site definitely needs work. I’m forwarding this to my web guy. I know we’re trustworthy, need to convey it better. Thanks!

  98. Good point– It is much more than the landing page that a prospect sees and relates to. Do you follow through on what you say? Everytime? for pages, Do you test pages to see what changes work and then apply it to other pages.

  99. This is an excellent post. The Sea Monkeys reference is an interesting one. As a kid growing up in England, I’d sometimes get my hands on second-hand American comics. These comics were full of exciting adverts for Sea Monkeys, toy soldiers and self-defence manuals that could turn you in to a Ninja in under a week. Although the products were clearly not up to much, the copywriting was excellent. I still think these long(er) copy ads have a lot to teach us, even now.

  100. Great post full of important information. Another copy conversion killer I would add is having contradicting ideas on the same page. It is confusing, and really derails your credibility.

  101. What better way to be authentic than video? You can even leave in all your ahhhhhs and ummmms! haha Somebody in this thread said one day you’ll give your own pitch on your site… HELLO? Online video! Pitch awayyyyy!

    BTW, sea monkeys give me the creeps… they’re shrimp I think?
    – Mary

  102. Awesome article Sonia! I just came accross your site, from a google search and am I glad that I found it! Excellent content here and I am subscribing to the news letter and RSS for getting more useful tips on blogging. Thanks and Take Care.

  103. Loved this Sonia! The part about the Midway carnies made me laugh that embarrassed laugh. The one where you blush and laugh at the same time.

    I remember being sucked in by the allure of how easy those Midway games looked and wasting my day’s spending allowance in minutes. I had to spend the rest of the day looking at food I couldn’t eat, rides I couldn’t ride.

    The next year I went back and did the same damned thing!

  104. It’s all about “last minute resistance?. It’s all about trust. Yet it’s not enough to be trustworthy, you have to *demonstrate* trustworthiness. You might know that your product is great – but the question is, how can you clearly and effectively *convey* that you the site visitor….?

  105. Great article. I like to use “Gremlins” instead of “Trolls” lol.

    I like the visuals you put in. I remember those stinkin’ carnivals. They haven’t gotten over on me in years (because I haven’t been to one).

    Everything boils down to that last second before the buy button is clicked. Sub consciously we all look for one last small thing that says, “this is a bad idea”.

    Thanks for some great thoughts.

    Chris Owen

  106. Hi Sonia,

    I really enjoyed reading your post! I totally agree with you about trustworthiness, transparency, credible authority and lots of high-value content. That”s what we’re all striving for, and it’s no easy job! I like how you pointed out the fears Sonia — right on target!

  107. I have to take issue with one thing – I have children who needed Sea Monkeys practically more than life. We acquired them, and truly, the man who is/was behind the marketing of brine shrimp really, really was fascinated with them. The “owner’s manual” is like 30 pages of the most detailed observations of their behavior and precise instructions as to their care. I’m sorry I don’t have his name to hand, but don’t ever dismiss him as a bloodless capitalist – he truly had a dream. A dream of introducing these deceptively simple and yet complex creatures to a generation of curious children. One can’t help but respect his sincerity.


  108. How did you know I fell for the Sea Monkeys? Yes, they are still around – my son wanted them recently and when I recommended he not buy them, he threw back, “But it’s my money.” *sigh*

    Great post and awesome site. I’m off to read more –


  109. Copyblogger is one of my most favorite blogs. I read everything you send to my inbox! And I get a lot of blog posts sent there. Yours are always worth clicking on and reading and learning from. Keep up the good work.

  110. That sea-monkey example brings back memories. I remember my first pet was a Triop, little prehistoric fish that you can hatch just like sea-monkeys. I received the Triop kit for Christmas one year and, boy, was I excited! I remember checking the tank every hour to see if the Triops hatched.

    When they did though, my excitement was short-lived. A few days after the Triops hatched, I went to school and came home to find them dead (there were two). Turns out, my little brother had wanted to “help” feed the Triops, so he poured the whole can of fish food in the tank…

    This is a terrific post. I love your troll metaphor. It’s definitely something I can relate to. Another way to reduce fear is to offer a guarantee. By guaranteeing the satisfaction of your customers for 30 days or even a year, your customers will know that they can ask for their money back if they don’t like the product – which can definitely increase the chances of potential customers buying what you have to sell.


  111. Love this post. Great information. Being decent and honest just doesn’t get old.

  112. First up, I really like the layout of this site? I’ve seen it on quite a few blogs so I imagine it’s a WordPress theme? Was just wondering what it’s called?

    Some really valid points here. I agree that trust is a big factor. In the past if I think back to anything I’ve bought online, I have first of all tried to find reviews/scams about it and then also checked out the ‘WhoIs’ of the domain etc. etc. just to see if I can find anything odd before committing to the purchase. If I smell a rat, I usually look elsewhere.

  113. I think that your insight is especially true today Sonia with all the ‘automated fluff’ being churned out by Internet marketers who are little more than Google hackers after a slot on the front page.

    Some of the stuff is so bad, one can hardly believe that it converts at all, ‘spinning’ ezine articles reads like garbage IMHO.

    The only thing I am wary of on the net, is posting my home address, other than that, I am who I am!
    Stay well Sonia

  114. Your article had me smiling all the way from the cute little troll picture through the whole sea monkey thing and all.

    I have to say though that I must have pretty resistant troll armour. Despite an attic full of herbalife laxative, a cupboard with rampant tupperware, not to mention the best efforts of multi story worms, screaming pillows and 30 kilos of melted chocolate in my boot, those trolls have never gotten a foot hold. I still jump in cheque book and all and never learn.

    The only reason I don’t buy is I simply don’t have the money in the bank to cover the cost (and I don’t believe in credit cards).

    I do understand about other people’s trolls though – anyone want to lend me one for a while please?

    So following your advice, my blog is littered with pictures of me, and well the whole sad story of know worms and things even though I only have Google adsense and Amazon (everyone trusts those right)?

    I never thought about having FAQ as being a sign of trustworthiness, even though that is the second or third page I visit on blogs (the first is usually the about page – interesting what you find there).

    I also think that trust comes with time. Who is going to trust a blog/site that was registered last week and has a half dozen PLR articles plastered up to give it authority?

  115. I agree wholeheartedly! The entire buy process is about building trust. If I think someone is “just selling” rather than offering me something of value, I’ll unsubscribe from that list or close that web page down. The era of the used car salesman online is coming to an end. It’s becoming less like the wild west, which is a great thing in my books.

    There will always be charlatans, so it will always be a constant struggle for legitimate businesses, but for those of us building a lasting business, we’ll come out on top. We always do.

  116. Sonia – Great content is lasting and withstands the test of time. Your little story on trust was shared almost two years ago and it is still engaging and meaningful. A fantastic use of story. Yes, you crafted the troll story in such a way that it became my story and quite a few others as well. Bravo !

    ps. Visit for instructions on how to knock down those damn milk cans & kill trolls. 🙂

  117. Love the Troll analagy Sonia. The trouble with trolls is that they multiply so quickly. You create more of them in an effort to ged rid of the first one. Remember – Keep It Simple. Invitation to buy – Order here – Pay now. Job done. Don’t over complicate things.

  118. There will always be charlatans, so it will always be a constant struggle for legitimate businesses, but for those of us building a lasting business, we’ll come out on top. We always do.

  119. Another excellent post from Sonia, many thanks.

    The lessening of fear in a potential customer’s mind is absolutely key to closing the deal.

    But something often forgotten is to continue that same principle after the sale in complete.

    The amount of times you buy something online and your buyers regret or the fear that you might have been duped, aren’t reduced but compounded is remarkable. That’s particularly bad news for refund rates, or for rebilling rates.

    Even a simple but clear ‘thank you’ page after purchase does wonders, usually make it look as personalised as possible. It’s a good idea to be clear exactly what you want them to do next.

  120. I’m thrilled to see a massive push toward responsible, transparent online marketing. You’ve skillfully captured an essential concept that, I believe, will make or break Internet marketers going forward. Thanks for your insightful post!

    BTW, I thought sea monkeys were those little foam things that expanded when you dumped them in a jar of water. I must have led a sheltered childhood…

  121. It’s really not a fear of wasting money, there is an underlying belief that stops them and chances are that same belief stops them in many more places in their life.

    It’s often the fear of failure because people really don’t mind wasting money, they do it day in and day out.

    Using time and money is the most popular excuse on the planet, then using a spouse or their children often comes second.

  122. Sonia —
    Great post. Love the Toll metaphor. Truly relate-able and accurate.
    Trolls are not good for effective marketing. I’m with you to eliminate them.

  123. wow, what a great post! The Fear of wasting money part took me back to my childhood. I thought you were talking about me! Thanks for sharing this and keep up this amazing work!

  124. What has worked for as far as Conversion go is, being truthful and telling the person who is using my services what is best for them. As far as copy go’s, totally being clear and truthful in the sales pitch. Its all about being turthful in sales. Lies = less sales. At least for me. Thanks for the post.

  125. I spend a lot time trying to kill that damned troll and I appreciate very much your words of encouragement. I work with first time buyers and any little trip smells funny to them. So we slog on, trying to repair the un-repair-able with the hope that our efforts will be rewarded.

  126. For some reason I can’t stop laughing about the Sea Monkeys! It only goes to show you how much marketing has changed. Makes you wonder what kind of legacy we are leaving for the present generation of kids – and if they even notice or care.

  127. Great and useful post! Your mentioned the important trolls and the bottom line is to prove we are extraordinarily trustworthy. Thank you for sharing.

  128. This post was very insightful. As marketers, sometimes sometimes we fall into the trap of being overly confident in how awesome the product we are promoting is and can’t understand why customers wouldn’t want to buy. Keeping prospect fear in mind and addressing those concerns in your copy as well as conveying your message in a trustworthy manner helps prevent that fear.

    I also really enjoyed your post about the difference between content marketing and copywriting (Link: “Content without copywriting is a waste of good content.”

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