How to Use the Psychology of Decision-Making to Optimize Web Content

Aug 11, 2016


min read

We live in the age of unlimited options. Smartphones, cars, lifestyles, products, jobs, services - we have freedom to choose whatever we want to shape our lives whatever we want.

But if it is freedom, why is it so hard?

A choice represents sacrifice. When choosing something, we give up all possible alternatives we might want tomorrow.

In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn't matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did. - Cassandra Clare, City of Glass

For all seasons, marketers struggled to understand what benefit they could offer to convince customers in the wisdom of choosing and buying a particular product. Today, the number one weapon of conviction is the Internet, and, specifically, the content used by online marketers for influencing purchase decisions and generating more leads.

What does make people buy? Why do they decide to choose your product or service over another? Being a marketer, what can you do to influence their decisions for your benefit?

The simple stroke of a genius:

Optimize your web content with the psychology of decision-making and four other psychological concepts in mind.

Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. - Dallin H. Oaks

Here's the kicker:

Sometimes people don't know why they choose a particular product.

One day John Doe wakes up and understands that he wants a new smartphone. He goes online, searches for dozens of smartphones, compares brands, features, prices, and... buys the one he preferred less!

What was that?

According to the study, overthinking on a product leads to emotional outburst signaling our subconscious to choose faster. As the result, nothing but emotions determine John's purchase decision within milliseconds.

"That one looks nice. I'll take it!"

Comparing multiple products and services from numerous websites, people often follow emotional rather than rational preferences. Make them feel, appealing to emotions with your content, and those feelings can affect decision-making far and away.

And now, for the most interesting part:

You don't necessarily have to optimize the product or service itself. In their study, Wharton University of Pennsylvania specify the factors such as personalization and visual content that elicit positive emotions from customers.

Show them how your service will make them feel, and it will generate more leads than your rational explanations alone. For example, Invodo influenced purchase decisions of 96% of consumers after introducing product videos, and Bid4Papers increased the conversion rate by 27% after changing the image of their landing page and making it "cozier" and more personal.


All you can do is make your decisions based on what you know now. - Malinda Lo, Huntress

This is crazy:

Studies prove that people often choose products they think they are supposed to like. It means we'll choose iPhone, use Facebook, and eat McDonald's even if we don't consider them the best ones.

Crowd drives sales and trends. People are more likely to choose something they know, and that is why we have so many similar-looking websites, so many similar-packed products, and so many generic labels trying to copy their branded competitors.

How can you use it?

  1. Make your design look familiar to target customers, applying the psychology of color.

  2. Make sure your brand and logo look familiar, introducing them across all channels you use for promotion.

  3. Make your target customers see that net personalities or Hollywood celebrities buy your product and choose your service. It will make them consider you of their kind and base a purchase decision on that.

What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient. - Bodie Thoene

Here's the deal:

People choose things they understand. Those easily reading and getting your content will trust it, so do your best to optimize landing pages or business blog properly.


a) Strong information scent

Make sure your content has a strong information scent. On the web, people don't have time to read tons of text blocks, and they want nothing but the information that could help them achieve goals or solve problems. They will leave your page if they don't see any visual clues to follow.

  • Don't overload your content with calls to action. Leads should understand what they can do at your page. One action per page would be ideal.

  • Make sure your content is readable. If your content is hard to read, no one will respond to it. Optimize texts for their color to contrast with pages' backgrounds.

Remember: light texts on dark backgrounds and light texts on light backgrounds are hard to read. Colors with strong contrast against each other wouldn't be a good idea too.

b) Awesome headlines

8 out of 10 people will read your headlines while only 2 out of 10 will continue reading the texts afterward. Your task is to make them want to keep on reading.

  • Make it short and clear. CoSchedule Headline Analyzer will help to check its structure and readability.

  • Make it useful and urgent. Give leads a feeling they will lose something if they don't check your information right now. Use Emotional Headline Analyzer to determine the emotional value of your headlines.

  • Make sure it explains the value of your information. Does it answer a lead's question "What's in it for me?" Online Headline Generator will help you create perfect headlines for your content.

c) Lip-smacking formats

People don't like reading long sheets of content at web pages. Keeping in mind the fact you have only five seconds to meet the eye of target audience, format your content properly:

  • Short sentences

  • Short paragraphs

  • Subheadings

  • Bullet points

  • Bolded words

  • Visuals (images, infographics, memes, video, charts, etc.)

d) Powerful words

To make people feel a certain way about your content, use the most powerful weapon ever:


Or, more precisely, power words. Those appealing to our fears and desires, hence compelling and persuasive. Jon Morrow's list of 317 power words for writers works for marketers, too.

The reverse of the coin is plague words able to kill your content by confusing leads and making you look generic in their eyes.

So, print it out and post in conspicuous place:

plague words

e) Human language

Check readability scores of your texts. In his article for Harvard Business Review, Cameron Craig who has spent ten years for doing PR for Apple recommends keeping texts simple so even an 11-year-old child could understand them.

Use Readability Score and Word Count Tools for that.

Your content works best when speaking the same language with your target audience. Make it human and personal to resonate with prospects.

  • Write the way you speak.

  • Be clear.

  • Use short words and sentences.

  • Break grammar rules and sound funny when appropriate.

  • Use words your audience speaks daily.

  • Avoid cliché marketing taglines.

f) Surplus value

In the age of information overflow, your content becomes one-of-a-kind product competing not with companies but their publications.

People visit a minimum three websites before they find the necessary information and verify their choice. The psychology of decision-making doesn't let them trust a single source, so your content should have a surplus value for visitors to choose it among dozens of others.

What can be your surplus value?

  • Links to authoritative resources confirming your information.

  • Trustworthy testimonials.

  • Comments from other customers.

  • Comments and recommendations from influencers of the market.

  • Well-structured content, answering users' all questions to the full.

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. - Nelson Mandela


The largest percentage of your potential leads today is millennials. Born in the 1980s or 1990s and known as Generation Y, these people are the fastest-growing and most diverse group of customers who don't trust ads and selling texts.

  • 89% of them trust recommendations from friends, not marketers.

  • 84% of them trust user generated content and confess its influence on their purchase decisions.

  • 84% of them don't trust traditional ads.

Optimize your content accordingly. 71% looks for reviews before deciding to buy, so place true-life comments on your landing pages and make sure they look and sound trustworthy. Add photos of your customers: this trick can boost conversion by 102%.

“Was this review helpful?”

Did you know that Amazon earned over $2.7 billion by allowing customers to vote for reviews? Supported by additional opinions, they seemed more trustworthy.

Also, about 60% of people buy from brands they follow on social media. Keep that in mind when optimizing your social accounts.

We are our choices. - Jean-Paul Sartre

Choices and decisions are hard to make, but our brains still deal with them better than computers: to simulate a second of brains activity, researchers needed 82,944 processors!

Why do we make decisions?

Reasons are not necessarily rational, but they depend on who and where we are. Taking into consideration psychological factors that affect choices, we help others make better decisions. Marketers do that by optimizing web content they create and promote to generate leads.

Do you use any tricks of content optimization to influence the decisions of your target audience?

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Article by

Lesley Vos

Lesley Vos is a one-man band with 5 years of experience in content writing, one of the bloggers behind Bid4Papers, and guest contributor to many top blogs, including this one. Lesley specializes in data research, content creation, texts editing, content repurposing and curation.

Share on social media

Share on social media

stay in the loop

Subscribe for more inspiration.