10 Psychological Tricks to Master Selling Online

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology

One thing I’ve said over and over again here is that you are not in the business of selling things when you sell online. You are in fact in the business of selling solutions to problems. Regardless of what you have for sale, in essence, you are providing a solution to a problem. Even if you sell Oriental rugs, you provide a solution to the problem that someone may have of what to put on the floor of their homes so that their homes look nice.

Okay, that having been said, there are a number of psychological tricks that you can use in order to improve the number of sales that you make when you work online (or offline for that matter). These tricks are all based on one essential premise – we’re emotional creatures.

While most of us like to believe that we can think logically and dispassionately about a decision, the reality is that we are not Vulcans and we never had Surak to teach us to repress emotional outbursts.

That’s why I recently bought two beautiful Oriental rugs at a store that was going out of business – I admit it, I didn’t need the rugs, didn’t even know where to put them. However, like anyone else, I was swayed by emotion. First, I happen to love art and these two rugs are basically works of art.

Second, since the store is going out of business, I was swayed by one of the classic psychological ‘tricks’ I’m about to teach you. No, I don’t regret the decision even though I couldn’t really afford the rugs and didn’t logically have a need for them. I had an emotional need and for me, there is a value in satisfying my desire for something of extreme beauty to decorate my home.

Okay, but enough about my recent purchases. Let’s talk about how to sell more online.


There is an old axiom that the market will determine what price a given item will sell for. If there is greater demand and not enough supply to go around, the price goes up. Lesser demand and too great a supply, the price goes down. One psychological trick that you can and should be using to sell online is the idea of scarcity.

Scarcity deal

In the case of my rugs, it was legitimate – the store was selling out its inventory and will be closed completely in another couple of weeks. However, it’s possible to create this kind of feeling even without going out of business (which would kind of defeat the whole purpose of running an online business – presumably, you are not trying to liquidate but to grow).

The key here is to simply set a time limit on how long a given product will be sold for. This is done constantly and it works extremely well. You state that a product is going to be available for the next 7 days only and then it will be “gone forever.” This can and does drive sales. The catch however is that you have to mean it. If you extend it endlessly the psychological trick loses effectiveness and you will have trouble convincing customers to make purchases in the future.

Another less drastic way of doing this is to use the dime sale, where the price regularly increases by a dime (or really any set amount) every time someone makes a purchase or after every several purchases. This allows you to continue selling for the long term while also creating the psychological effect of a scarcity rush. Of course, you don’t have quite the same drama of “never being able to buy it” as you do with the sale for a limited time but it creates much the same effect.

Create Empathy

Everyone wants to make more money when selling online, right? If you are like about 99% of the population of the world, I just used a second psychological trick on you. I got you to agree with me by making a statement which almost everyone agrees is true. This can be a very powerful method for selling because you have already put people into a frame of mind that gets them more ready to make a purchase.

bankruptcy ad

The headline is something everyone can agree with and creates instant empathy.

Think about it – I’d have a much tougher sell if I were trying to convince you of something that you are ambivalent about. If I’m trying to push something that you are downright opposed to (i.e. let’s say you are a devout Christian and I’m trying to push the idea that the theory of evolution is correct and no creator was responsible for mankind existing here on earth), I’ll have an almost impossible task in getting you to agree.

However, if I were to start my argument with something you are likely to agree with (going back to our theoretical devout Christian, if I were to start out by saying, “we can all agree that the world is an incredibly complex and wondrous place”), I’ve removed a roadblock to selling you on something else because I’ve put you into a frame of mind where you feel comfortable, as if we have something in common.

This is called creating empathy and it’s one of the best ways to start off a selling point by trying to disarm someone who may be reluctant to agree with you otherwise.

Be Negative Too

I recently read a fascinating article in The Atlantic about failures. The article suggests that, especially today, people tend to be more forgiving of failure than they once were. They mentioned there as an example the disgraced former governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, who was caught in a sex scandal but is now trying to make a comeback.

Spitzer scandal

They go on to mention that it’s become almost de rigueur to admit to some kind of a failure when you are applying for a job today. We all like to hear stories about someone who came back from a terrible tragedy and found themselves the stronger for it. A similar concept exists when you are trying to sell things online.

While you can admit to initial failure when trying to sell a product, you can even admit to current failures and make it into a selling point. In essence, what you do is to admit that your product is not all things to all people.

You run a small advertising firm which is intended to work with small to medium size businesses and offer them personal service. You’re not running a company which handles accounts the size of Microsoft. Hey, that’s admitting to a failure – you are not equipped to handle a $500 million account.

However, by admitting that, you make it into a selling point for your primary customer base by showing them that they’re not going to be a tiny fish in a massive pond and that they won’t end up feeling as if they’re going to be brushed aside because you have other customers that are much bigger and more important to them.

You can also use this to make clear to your potential customers what the upsides and downsides of working with your company are. You’re not going to be recruiting the top talent for their TV ads because that’s not what you do. By offering a balanced view, you actually increase the likelihood they’ll work with you.

People Don’t Really Want Choices

I know this sounds a little counterintuitive. It seems every ad we ever see today is talking about how you have lots of choices, blah, blah, blah. What people really want however is the illusion of having choices rather than actually having choices.

What I mean by this is expressed best by the old car salesman’s trick – they insist that you must pick the color of the car that you want to buy. The idea is to give people the option to choose something so they have the illusion of choice even though everything else, including the decision to make a purchase to begin with, has been taken away from them.

Of course, people tend to be more sophisticated than that, especially today but the basic axiom stays the same. Most people for example who want to buy a computer are not interested in being offered 20 different choices of processors and 10 different speeds of RAM along with all the other dizzying array of choices that can be made when buying a modern computer.


You choose the color because the choice of Crocs has been made for you already.


Most people know the basics though – they know more RAM is better and they know that the processor with more cores is better. Thus offering a limited number of choices, where you suggest three options of configurations works much better than suggesting a dizzying array of choices. Again, people want the illusion of choices. They don’t actually want unlimited choices though.

Create Value

I’ve written about this in the past but it’s worth mentioning it here again because this is also an important psychological trick. In essence, the way this works is that you make the product you want to sell seem like a good value by comparing it to something more expensive.

So you might for example create a product which is more expensive and then label your middle ground product as being the “best value.” By making this comparison available, you are in essence making people believe that they are getting a relative bargain by making the purchase of the middle ground product even though it’s being sold for the same price as it would have been sold at without the comparisons available.

Rinse, Repeat

There is an old saying promulgated by the infamous Nazi, Joseph Goebbels: “Repeat a lie often enough and people will begin to believe that it’s true.” Now while I’m certainly not suggesting the idea of following his sick ideas about Jews and other minority groups, nor am I suggesting that you tell grand lies as he did, he does have a point to make.

People often need to see an ad at least 7 time before they begin to remember it and act upon it. This means that it behooves you to repeat important selling points in different ways and to keep up a certain frequency of advertising in order to keep your customers interested in whatever it is that you have for sale.

Buy More and Save!

You’ve likely seen some kind of ad in your local supermarket where you were offered the option to purchase 5 of something and save money. What many supermarkets won’t tell you is that they’ll actually give you the discount even if you just buy one. The reason they advertise it that way is that psychologically, when you see “5 for $5” you are more inclined to buy five of the item even if the regular price is $1.

Family Dollar

You can use a similar technique when selling online by in essence suggesting people buy whatever it is that you have for sale in bulk. This works best when you can offer a comparison and actually show that buying more saves them money however, even simply advertising your product the way supermarkets do it can and does work to get more sales.

Tell a Story

Look at a good newspaper sometime and read an article about pretty much anything, especially economic news. If it’s a long form article, they will inevitably tell you about some random everyday person that they interviewed. For example, rather than simply telling you that food prices are going up, they’ll show you an American mother struggling to put food on the table with rising prices.

The reason is simple – data is dry and boring but stories sell. Thus if you really want to make more sales, consider telling a story. Tell a story about how this one customer of yours was able to triple his income by purchasing your magic product. Even if you don’t necessarily have a story to tell, you can use the same principle by creating a fictional character.

Be Authoritative

People like feeling secure and knowing that they got a great deal from someone knowledgeable. Thus your best bet for selling a product online is to make yourself into an authority on whatever it is that you have for sale. Let people know that you have the expertise to offer them the best of whatever it is that you happen to have for sale.

For example, if you are selling a service which helps people to protect their credit, you can create authority by explaining that you have on your staff two dozen people with a combined 200 years of experience working with various credit reporting agencies. This makes people feel that much more confident in their purchase of whatever it is that you have for sale.

There are Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

That’s a very old saying but it’s true – statistics are often made up. In fact, 87% of all statistics are based on nothing but supposition, that statistic included. However, even though the statistic I just quoted is based on utter nonsense, it sounds authoritative and gets people to feel more secure. Thus my final psychological point is to include statistics.


However, the best way to do this is to include an actual source for the statistic rather than simple make something up out of thin air. While  the above joke might be funny, it’s much more likely to be valuable as a selling point if I actually had a real basis for saying it.

5 Things you are Doing Wrong with Article Marketing

newspaperFirst, let’s dispel a common myth. Article marketing is not dead and probably will never be dead. I know that people claim its dead but what they actually refer to is article directory marketing which died years ago. The old thing, also called bum marketing involved creating links on various article directories for SEO purposes. That has not worked in at least six or seven years (an eternity in Internet terms).

Article marketing by comparison works by taking advantage of a decades old concept. It’s the thing that made the World Wide Web what it is today and the best part is that it is 100% completely and utterly Google proof. It doesn’t matter what Google does to their algorithms. You could even be delisted from Google and article marketing would still work wonders for your traffic numbers.

In essence, article marketing means getting articles placed on high profile websites with links back to your site. The idea is not to take advantage of the link juice from Google (though that can help) but instead to take advantage of good old fashioned clicking on a link from one site to another, bypassing Google completely. As I said, this technology has existed since the earliest days of the Web and it’s still a great way to get traffic.

The reason it works is simple: every website needs decent content and while it is best to have original content, it’s also very useful to get yourself a handful of extremely well written articles even if they are syndicated. Your local newspaper (if you still read one – if not, check a nationally known paper such as USA Today or the New York Times) uses a similar concept.

The majority of articles in a decent newspaper are by the staff of the paper. However, there will also be articles published in those newspapers by people who are affiliated with various news services such as Reuters or AP. These articles appear in more than one newspaper because they are provided by a service which sends out reporters and gives newspapers the right to republish their stories.

When you do article marketing, you provide an extremely high quality article to blogs and online newsletters which you agree to allow them to publish for free in exchange for including link back to your site. That’s the original purpose of article directories by the way and they have largely returned to that purpose in the wake of things like Hummingbird and Penguin/Panda.

So, with that introduction, here are the five things you are likely doing wrong with article marketing:

Sending Out Junk

I know and you know that it’s possible to buy an article on Fiverr. 500 words of somewhat passable ‘content’ which may even sound like something written  by a native English speaker as opposed to a guy working in a third world country. There’s just one problem with this. Even if you do find someone willing to work for so little, you won’t get the quality you need in order to attract real, high quality sites with that kind of junk.

Think about it logically – if someone wants to earn even the minimum wage for writing your content, that means they need to pump out around 750 words per hour. Now I could do that and have done it in the past. However, what I can pump out that quickly is going to be whatever I can think of off the top of my head. It’s not going to be the kind of well researched, thought provoking article which is likely to get you links from well-known websites.

If you are determined to succeed with article marketing, bit the bullet and realize that you are not buying link fodder for some unknown blog but a high quality, well researched piece of writing. That means that you need to be willing to spend the money to hire a professional writer (and yes, that may mean spending $100-$500 or more for a single article) or learn to do it yourself.

A good article, the kind likely to get you a link from a major website is the kind which is thought provoking and which has some real, in depth journalism behind it. It should include at least one and likely several quotes from actual experts in the field that it’s written on and it should be the kind of thing that grabs your attention and keeps you interested throughout.

Expecting Instant Results

This is a common theme that I see from a wide number of people who spend a lot of money on a good article. They get the article –just one mind you—onto an article directory and expect instant traffic to pour into their sites. I’m sorry to tell you that article marketing works very much the way that SEO does. It’s a cumulative thing and it cannot be rushed.

instant jackpot

This isn’t an instant jackpot kind of thing. Article marketing takes time but it does work.


In point of fact, article marketing can take as much as 4-6 months to show real results and it will only work if you consistently put high quality articles out there into the web. Remember that as with anything else, there is a great deal of competition and the major blogs and Ezines have plenty of choices of which article to actually publish. Thus you need to build yourself a reputation first.

Expect to invest in at least 2-4 articles per month and expect to spend some time or money as well getting it sent out to as many article directories as possible in order to ensure that it propagates properly. If you do this consistently, you should begin to see some serious results from your efforts but it will take time and is not instant.

Failing to Track Where Your Articles Ended Up

Article marketing is all about getting yourself mentioned in major blogs and e-zines. Unfortunately, they often will not let you know that they published your work or where they found your work initially. However, there is a simple trick to ensure that you know when you were published and another simple trick to know which directory they found you on.

First, pick a handful of key phrases from your articles and set up Google alerts for those phrases. It’s a good idea to pick at least 3-4 such phrases rather than just one because the websites which publish you may change the wording slightly in places. With the Google alerts, you will know when someone has picked up your work even if they don’t let you know.

The other advantage by the way is that you can go in and make sure that your links are actually appearing and have not been stripped before the articles are published on someone else’s website.

Now, another useful thing to do is to have some kind of subtle punctuation changes somewhere in the article for each time you upload to a directory. The nice thing about this is that it will let you know for certain which directory they found you on. This means that you can begin to focus on the directories which consistently get you results.

Plus, you should also contact the owners of the sites or e-zines that you get links from in order to offer them first dibs on any new articles that you publish. This will get you to the head of the line when it comes time to pick which articles make the cut and which ones do not. In fact, the people who do the best with article marketing often do this exclusively, ignoring the directories completely because they get to control which sites use their content, making sure that only the best get their stuff.

By the way, you can also use Google Analytics to track where your incoming visitors are coming from, further enhancing your ability to keep track of these things (important when you consider that your articles may appear on E-zines which don’t get indexed by Google and therefore wouldn’t show in a Google Alert).

Failure to Check Your Spelling and Grammar

Want to sink your brand spanking new article marketing campaign super fast? Just make sure that the spelling and grammar in your work is atrocious. Even if you hired a professional writer and paid them a great deal of money to write an article for you, it’s worth your while (all the more so considering you spent a lot of money on it) to check the content produced yourself. Even a pro can make mistakes and there is nothing like a second pair of eyes to catch them.

spelling mistake

One great technique I’ve used on many occasions is to read the article out loud. For whatever reason, doing so forces you to notice mistakes that your brain would otherwise miss.

Failing to Track Your Numbers

Finally, whenever you start to work on any new kind of traffic strategy, it’s important to ensure that you have a way to track whether it’s working or not. Spend some time looking through your Google Analytics information and find out what your numbers are right now. Then, keep tracking this over a course of around six months or so and see whether or not the article marketing has actually made a real difference or not.

7 Things You Are Doing Wrong with Your Product Descriptions


What if I told you that you could easily double your conversions without ever having to worry about doing a single drop of extra SEO or advertising? Mind you, you’d still need to do what you already do. This isn’t magic and won’t bring traffic to a site that nobody knows about but if you implement these ideas, you may well be able to double the number of conversions you get from existing traffic.

In addition, you can easily attract more traffic by making some specific tweaks to your page. Sounds good? Then all you need to do is to make your product descriptions sound like things people actually want to buy instead of being something boring that just offers a plain vanilla explanation of what the product actually is. Here are seven mistakes that you may well be making when writing your product descriptions:

Failing to Think about Who Your Buyers Are

So you’ve got a product, let’s say it’s a new kind of pocket book which can be biometrically sealed so that it becomes worthless to purse snatchers. I’m just throwing out an idea which is likely a bad one (I mean, once the purse snatcher has the thing, they have all the time in the world to get around any locking mechanism but work with me on this anyway).

Okay, now you have a problem. Who exactly is your customer for this product? If you’re like many entrepreneurs I’ve seen on the web, you probably are super excited about whatever it is that you have for sale and you think it’s the greatest invention since sliced bread or maybe even since the iPod.  You can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to own one and you’re sure you’re going to make a bundle of money.

Reality check time. You need to create a “buyer persona.” Think of every crime show that you’ve ever seen (well almost every one that you’ve ever seen) and you’ll know what this is. Crime shows often have people who create a profile of a likely suspect in an investigation.

A buyer persona is no different except that instead of creating a profile of someone who committed the murder of the week, you are creating a profile of the buyer of the week (i.e. a profile of someone who is likely to want to buy your product).

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: you know who you want to sell your product to – going back to our imaginary purse snatcher proof purse, your target market is super geeky women who are afraid for their personal safety (again, this is probably a bad product idea). However, if that’s all you have to go on, you are no more likely to make money from your customers than the crime solvers are likely to catch a criminal with such a vague description.

This is dry as cardboard and doesn't take into account who the buyer persona is at all.

This is dry as cardboard and doesn’t take into account who the buyer persona is at all.

Remember those crime shows where the police investigator puts together a very detailed profile and talks about what the person’s childhood might have been like as well as whether the person lives alone or not, even sometimes going so far as to say what kind of clothing they likely wear? That’s what you need to do for your buyer persona.

In essence, it’s almost like writing a novel to create a buyer persona. Your persona needs to have all the attributes of a real person with thoughts and feelings beyond some vague interest in your product. When you have all these details down, you can then use that to craft your product descriptions to fit perfectly with the kind of person who would buy your product.

Writing Your List of Product Features Incorrectly

I see this constantly and it’s a crying shame because this happens to lots of great products. Yes, we all know that you are very excited about this new product that you worked so hard to create. We all know that you love all the esoteric features that you’ve added into your new product and you think that this feature is so cool.

Sorry to tell you but nobody cares even a little bit about what you think is cool or wonderful or whatever. When it comes to your customers, you have to remember that they are going to be the ultimate narcissists. They don’t care what it took to make this thing or about a dry list of features. They want to know what it will do for them.

In other words, as I say over and over again every time that I write about marketing on the Internet, you are in the solution business. Your job is to sell your customers a solution to their problems and to make sure that it makes their lives easier.

Effectively, this means that if you were to mention that your new word processor has an intuitive, real time spell check, you have just wasted your time and your customer’s time. On the other hand, if you were to say that the spell check uses AI to try to determine which word was intended and automatically suggest a correction, you have now provided your customers with a useful solution instead of something that you think is cool.

You should also be providing a list of benefits that your customers will get with your product as opposed to what they get with the competition. This means for example that you might compare the speed of your word processor’s spell check with the speed of the competition’s spell check. Or maybe the accuracy can be compared. Bottom line is to ensure that you are feeding your customer’s narcissism rather than your own and you will be fine.

Not Bothering to Think about Your Company’s Image

Another thing that many people do when they’re trying to write a product description is to forget that there are different kinds of companies out there which appeal to different kinds of customers. Some customers are going to want to buy a product from a company that sounds large and well established while others would prefer to work with a company which has a smaller profile and where they feel they can get personalized service.

Remember that buyer persona we created? Here’s where it can come in super handy. Your customer may be the kind of person who is going to prefer to have a personal relationship with the people that they make a purchase from. This would mean that they’re the kind of person who wants to see a description which sounds a little quirky and which makes them feel as if they’ve found a real individual to work with.

In other cases, you may have a customer who would prefer to work with a big corporation because that would make them feel safer about their personal information or other needs being taken care of. In this case, your product description needs to reflect the fact that your company is big and well established (even it’s just you and your dog in your spare bedroom).

The way that you accomplish this is to basically create a product description which trumpets the complexity of the various features that your product has and which makes it sound like you have a product which is well polished and established as opposed to one where you sound quirky and individualistic.

Again, that buyer persona is all important here because without it, you wouldn’t really know what will appeal to your potential customers so make sure you have it before you even begin.

Failure to Create Subheadings or Lists

As I said in a previous article here, people don’t really like to read every single word that you post on the Internet. In fact, the vast majority of people will read just a tiny fraction of whatever it is that you post in your product descriptions (not that you can slack off though since those most interested will read every word and will notice if your specifics don’t look so interesting).

Thus, in order to ensure that you can reach the widest possible audience, you want to ensure that you keep things in bullet points but also include either a link or smaller text below for those who want to know more. This way, you can keep your customers engaged and get more of them hooked on whatever it is that you have for sale. Here’s a screenshot of the Barnes and Noble Nook eBook reader:

Nook reader

Did you notice how they didn’t focus in this comparison on the technical specs (though they do that above, which is probably mostly to make it clear that they’re comparable in every way to the Kindle)? Instead, this list shows the benefits that each one will give you and makes it easy to figure out why the narcissistic customer (again, when it comes to your customers, assume they are narcissists in this instance) should want it.

There are also links on the same page where customers can learn more about the various features of the Nook so that those who want to know the nitty gritty of the details can find out exactly how each service works and why they should buy a Nook.

Failure to Edit

So you’ve written this amazing product description and you’ve taken into account the buyer persona that you created earlier. You made sure that the list appeals to them and not to you and made sure that the product description is easily scannable. Great – now you’re ready to publish, right? Not so fast my friend.

Nothing is likely to sink your fortunes faster than putting out a very drafty version of your product description. This is not the same as a blog where you may need to push out lots of content constantly. Your product description is going to be pretty static and will be the primary selling point for your product. This means it needs to be polished and refined.

Ideally, give yourself a day or two to forget exactly what you wrote and then come back to read it again. Another great trick is to read it out loud. Somehow, when you read out loud, you tend to notice mistakes and things that just don’t sound quite right which you would never have noticed had you simply read it silently to yourself.

If you can, get some feedback from random people (ideally, not your friends or family, who will want to please you. In fact, an editor is best) who can critique what you wrote and tell you why (or why not) it works. This will help you to tweak the product description so that it can get the maximum number of possible sales for you.

Be Persuasive

A while back, I wrote about one of my favorite books, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The book, along with a companion, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, has really changed my life. In both books, Carnegie mentions this idea (though not in so many words) that people tend to be narcissistic at their cores.

Mind you, being a narcissist in all things is a bad thing and nothing to be proud of (by the way, just in case anyone doesn’t know what it means, it means someone who is very self centered. It comes from the Greek legend of Narcissus. You can look it up elsewhere but it’s basically a cautionary tale about not being too self centered).

That having been said, human nature, especially when making a purchase is to ask, what’s in it for me? How do I benefit personally from this. This means that in order to make your writing persuasive, it should have a number of personal pronouns (I, You, etc.). These tend to make the writing all about your customer and less about your own interests.

Be specific as well rather than generalizing in describing the features that your product includes. So for example, instead of saying it has a great spell checker, explain that it’s got an intelligent AI which can automatically suggest appropriate words based on context.

Finally, always think about what your customer wants and not what you want and you will find that your writing is more persuasive for your trouble.

Don’t Forget about Google

Finally, while it’s important to write your product descriptions in a way that makes sense for humans, it would be foolhardy to complete ignore the SEO aspect of writing product descriptions. This means that you need to be clever about working in your keywords so that Google and the other search engines will pick up on what you wrote and present it as a relevant option for your customers.

The other side of that of course is that just like every other part of your website, your product descriptions should have ample high quality backlinks pointing at them so that you can ensure that you get the maximum possible benefit from the Google gods.