Visitors arrive at your website with their own needs, perspectives, and emotions. How can your landing page influence them to take action when you don’t know what motivates them?

Start with this basic truth: people don’t often make rational decisions. In fact, the capacity for abstract rational thought is only a recent evolutionary addition to our brains. We have mainly gotten by on our emotions and gut feelings. We may think that we are approaching something rationally, but most of the time we use after-the-fact rationalization to justify our intuitive and emotional decision making.

It is a well-known maxim in marketing that people who are comfortable enough with their current situation are not good prospects for buying goods, services, or ideas—they simply don’t care enough to make a change. The goal of your landing page messaging should be to move your visitors off their comfortable spot and influence their most basic human emotions.

Direct marketers Bob Hacker and Axel Andersson have defined several key copywriting concepts that motivate people to act: fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, anger, salvation, or flattery. Not one of these motivations is rational—all of them are rooted in our fundamental and unchanging emotional nature. The best way to get visitors to act is to appeal to one of these fundamental emotional motivations.


Visitors need to feel safe and secure, which means your landing page should establish a sense of trust and reduce anxiety. How will their information be used? Will they get on a spam list? Will they be the victim of identity theft? Will their purchase arrive undamaged and on time? Will they actually get what they ordered? Will unexpected fine print charges be added to the order without their knowledge? Will anyone respond if they have a problem after buying? Will it be easy to dispute or cancel a transaction?

Visitors come to your website with all of these anxieties and more. Giving up any amount of personal information, allowing someone to contact them, and paying by credit card all have significant fears associated with them. Reduce those fears and you’ve satisfied a strong emotional motivator.

Anything that you can do to minimize anxiety and help visitors feel safe will help your conversion. This includes clear privacy policies, detailed shipping directions, unconditional return policies, client testimonials, certifications, and trust symbols that show that you conduct business with integrity.

Confusion vs. Clarity

Some sites are simple and intuitive. Most are akin to a busy marketplace with loud hawkers vying for attention. Does your website assault visitors with bright colors, boxes, or flashing advertisements? When people come to your site are they overloaded with too many choices, confused by multiple links and buried under a mountain of text displayed in tiny fonts?

All too often, visitors have no idea how to navigate a specific website, never mind finding the information that they need. They’re paralyzed as they wonder “Where am I in the site?”, “How do I get back to the page that I read earlier?”, “Which of these 20 links should I click?”, or “Why does this page text not address my particular needs?”

Most sites and landing pages have very poor information architecture and interaction design. Fixing major usability, coherence, and cognitive problems can have a major conversion rate impact.

Alienation vs. Affinity

Even if your visitors overcome their anxiety and confusion to find the information they need, they will still have issues of affinity and alienation. By nature, people want to be recognized for who they are, understood, and valued. These are subtle issues of identity, tribalism, self-esteem, and belonging. Consider the vast array of formal and informal tribes to with which your visitors might associate themselves: fans of a specific sports team, employees of a certain company, drivers of a particular make of car, occupants of a specific zip code, and graduates of a certain school. Feeling a sense of belonging and being understood is a powerful motivator for people.

Match the editorial tone of your website landing pages to your visitors’ values and beliefs. Use images of people with whom your visitors can identify, and choose graphics and color schemes that match the appropriate palette for their sensibilities. Even button text and calls-to-action should use the language of your target community. By segmenting your visitors and personalizing information for them, you are much more likely to appeal to their sense of comfort and belonging and move them to action.

Tim Ash is the CEO of, a landing page optimization firm that offers consulting and conversion improvement tools. He is the chairperson of and a speaker at events worldwide. Tim is a contributing columnist at many publications and author of Landing Page Optimization