Communication is fundamental in the life of a company to convey messages to its stakeholders. One of the ways to communicate is to write, and today writing is increasingly spreading on a digital dimension. In this post, we want to provide some valuable insights to understand the logic of Copywriting and learn how to use it effectively, starting from the ancient discipline of rhetoric, then moving on to the theory of argumentation until you get to On-Page SEO.
Applying the logic of the ancient discipline of rhetoric to Copywriting
Let’s start by understanding the concept of rhetoric, traditionally understood as the art of saying, speaking, and, more explicitly, persuading with words. Rhetoric can be seen as a method of organizing language that is based on a criterion whereby a proposition is necessarily followed by a conclusion.
Business writing, i.e., professional writing, is a type of writing used to achieve business goals. Usually, one of the main goals is to persuade someone to do something. When this activity is done online, it is called Digital Business Writing or Copywriting.
So, what is the link between rhetoric and Copywriting?
Let’s consider the definition of the Greek philosopher and writer Plato “rhetoric is the artificer of persuasion, and all its activity and purpose are reduced to this,” where the concept of persuasion is understood as the approval of the speaker’s thesis by a specific audience. Suppose we translate this philosophical vision into business language. In that case, we can compare the “thesis of the speaker” to the company’s offer (product/service), while the target audience can represent the “specific audience.”
Putting together these two visions, we can understand the usefulness of rhetoric for Copywriting or, more generally, for business writing. Both revolve around the persuasive capacity, which is the art of being able to change the attitude or behavior of a person towards an idea, a thing, an action, or another person through an exchange of messages.
On the one hand, persuasion is based on an emotional phenomenon of psychological consent; on the other hand, it has an epistemological basis that is the philosophy of science and therefore relates to more rational concepts that move people’s actions. Business writing, therefore, must be able to involve and affect the emotional side of people, bringing them to identify with the story told (the principle behind storytelling). Therefore, business writing must go further: it must be able to induce the interlocutor to action. It is precisely here that the use of rhetoric for Digital Business Writing comes into play.
The system of rhetoric: from the classical era to the digital age
Rhetoric, since its inception, has sought to classify and organize the elements that constitute the “art of persuasion” into a system. One of the most important works on this subject is Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which Cicero and Quintilian later took up. The combined work of these scholars and philosophers has led to the identification of 5 main phases that make up the system of rhetoric and that remain good basic steps even today so that we can review them from a digital perspective and apply them to Copywriting:
- Inventio: starting phase aimed at finding ideas and arguments to support one’s thesis. Therefore, in this phase, it is necessary to identify the possible means of persuasion helpful in structuring the discourse to increase the probability of achieving one’s objective (to make our interlocutor perform the desired action). Under the digital lens, this means finding the proper “digital objects” (text, images, sounds, animations, links, etc.) to communicate your message in a convincing way.
- Dispositio: phase aimed at organizing in a strategic, logical, and effective way the arguments in the speech. Once identified as what to say, it is necessary to define how and in which order to say it. The same is true in the digital world: once you have identified the “digital objects” that you want to use to communicate, you need to organize them effectively within the digital spaces (e.g., how to effectively integrate text and images, how to limit the interference of irrelevant information such as advertising or error messages and reasoning in general about the user experience)
- Elocutio: phase aimed at the choice of an appropriate vocabulary, captivating and rich in rhetorical devices. That is also a fundamental part of the digital world, made even easier by all the advances in technology that allow us to have numerous possibilities to make content more attractive (photos, videos, augmented reality, etc.)
- Memory: phase aimed at memorizing the speech defined in the previous phases. In the digital world, this means understanding how to store one’s knowledge “digitally” and recall it when it is useful. An example can be the memorization of files or the indexes of search engines such as Google with its Google Search in a more structured way.
- Actio or pronunciatio: the phase of the “performance” in which the discourse is exposed, modulating it strategically. In the digital world, this means using digital tools and channels to make the communication performance more effective, identifying strategies and actions that allow the content to reach and engage the maximum number of users possible.
As reported by the authors Andrea Granelli and Flavia Trupia in the book “Rhetoric and business: intuiting, reasoning, seducing in the digital era,” the art of saying is, first of all, the art of reasoning and rhetoric is the most important and influential technology of the mind.
Functions and Principles for Persuasive Copywriting
Once these basic concepts have been clarified, let’s move on to give some practical ideas for Copywriting. Also, in this case, we are supported by Cicero, who, in “the Orator,” has indicated the primary functions of a speech:
- Inform and convince
- Capture attention
- Push to action
These concepts are complemented by those of Olivier Reboul, who in three fundamental principles, summarizes the rules that every speaker should follow to be persuasive:
- Principle of non-paraphrasing: an effective speech must not be paraphrasable. A good example is the well-known phrase “I have a dream” pronounced by Martin Luther King.
- Principle of closure: impossibility (or almost) for an opponent to retort to what has been said. In this case, a good example is represented by formulas such as advertising slogans.
- Transfer principle: the ability to root an opinion in the minds of many people. A good case is some political slogans of history.
Let’s see how principles elaborated many centuries ago have remained, over time, valid pillars at the base of the art of communication and persuasion and continue to be so even in the digital era. In Copywriting, the conscious use of language and the art of communicating and arguing represent a key element to capture the attention, involve and excite, be able to disentangle in complex situations, to be able to be influential and convincing, and push to action.
Argumentation Theory and Copywriting
Rhetoric is based on the ability to analyze problems and techniques of conducting philosophical argumentation in which the dialectical strategy is decisive. Hence the importance of the organization of the discourse’s structure, the parts that make it up, and the order in which facts and ideas are presented. Classical rhetoric identified a basic outline, which later evolved over centuries of argumentation, which was structured into four parts useful for defining speeches and increasing their effectiveness:
- Opening: to attract the attention of the interlocutor
- Narration and exposition of facts: to engage the interlocutor, the narrative involves
- Argumentation: to demonstrate evidence in support of the thesis and refute opposing arguments
- Epilogue: to conclude and draw out the threads of the argument, to develop pathos
To demonstrate that starting from a good structure of the speech, consisting of the right steps and elements, can be a useful starting point for making an effective speech, you can take as an example the video of Will Stephen, in a TEDx Talk, shows with great irony the foundations and scaffolding of an argumentative speech. Watch the video here.
The Ted Talks represent a format based on the union of traditional discourse techniques with philosophical and current concepts of rhetoric for the digital world. They are, therefore, excellent food for thought to optimize your copywriting strategy.
From rhetoric to On-Page SEO for Successful Copywriting
Once one understands the connection between rhetoric and Copywriting and understands the basis that it provides to communicate well to achieve their goals, it is finally necessary to consider that in the world of Copywriting becomes essential to consider the logic of SEO on the Page.
First of all, it is necessary to consider that the interlocutor is twofold: the user and Google in this context. In the digital world, Google often plays the role of interface between the company and the user; before gaining the user’s attention, it is necessary to acquire the attention of Google. Thus, it is essential to express itself in a clear and compelling language both for the user and for Google’s logic.
On-page SEO consists of the optimization of the elements contained within a web page to improve its positioning on search engines and to be reachable by users when they explicitly manifest a specific problem or need. Being found in the moment of need allows companies to increase the probability of conversion.
So how do you combine Copywriting techniques with the logic of SEO?
Based on Maslow’s pyramid of needs, Rand Fishkin, one of the world’s leading SEO experts, has created “Mozlow’s hierarchy of SEO needs” that identifies the main steps for successful SEO:
- Accessibility of the web page for search engines: the foundation of good SEO is built by ensuring the crawl is accessible so that search engines can read the website. To be found by users first, search engines must recognize you first.
- Valuable and compelling content: Include relevant content on your website that responds to user demand.
- Keywords optimization: for being positioned on search engines in order to direct searchers to your site. For this reason, once you have identified helpful content, you need to optimize it by inserting and using keywords that can land users on your site.
- Excellent User Experience: without a site that is easy to navigate, with a good loading speed and a user-friendly interface, users would not be induced to continue browsing the site or return to it.
- Shareable content: amplify the spread of your website for free with mentions and links.
- Title, URL, and description: must be well structured to attract a high CTR in the rankings.
- Schema mark-up/Snippet: this is valuable coding to try to appear high in search engine rankings.
Therefore, this pyramid can help those who, once composed an argumentative business text following the dictates of rhetoric, wanted later to intercept an audience or potential customers through search engines – Google in particular.
In detail, point 3, point 6, and point 7 are fundamental for performing On-Page SEO within an SEO system built following Fishkin’s advice.
People have always written for readers. You write for readers and engines in the digital world, but the central point of focus should be the person. Informing and persuading are business tools that appear in the Copywriting techniques discussed above.
What do you think? Do you want to improve your Copywriting and SEO techniques to be persuasive and be found by users in search engines? Please write to us in the form below and tell us about your needs.