Privacy Policy Cookie Policy Copywriting for conversions blog

3 Power Words for More Persuasive Copy


When was the last time you thought about the impact of your words on your online copy?

If you’ve been reading this blog or some of the others focused on conversion, you’re probably already keyed in. Individual words and phrases can make the difference between someone clicking a button or bouncing off a page.

It seems amazing that by simply changing a word or two you can affect such a big change. 

But… you can. It has everything to do with persuasion and using a few power words.

So, let’s cut to the chase and go over 3 of the most powerful.

#1: “You” and the case for “What’s in it for me?”

Such a little word that packs an enormous punch, everything in your copy should come back to the word “you.” If you’ve been writing your copy all from your perspective, it’s time to make a shift.


Because your visitors are coming to your site or landing page looking to find answers to their questions… solutions for their needs. The reality is that their main concern is themselves – not you.

Harsh. I know.

As I’ve talked about in this post about getting people to respond to your email surveys, customers are frustrated when they encounter messaging that doesn’t resonate with them. Beyond addressing what’s most important to your prospects, centering your copy on them will go a long way to making them feel that there may just be something in it for them.

Practical tip: Replace “we” and “I” with “you” whenever possible

If you’ve got a headline with the word “I” or “we” either change it around so that “you” can be substituted. Or, simply get rid of the pronoun.

A headline like this…

I Help Small Businesses Build Better Widgets

… would be so much better simply by changing it to this…

Helping Small Businesses Build Better Widgets

Just by taking yourself out of it, you’ve shifted the focus to your customer.

#2: “Because” or giving people a reason to believe

Because is an amazing word. It’s power comes from the fact that it triggers people to expect a reason behind a request or an argument.

Dr. Ellen Langer’s experiment – that has been written about multiple times around the web in this context – shows just how effective using because can be.

In it, she asked study participants to cut to the front of the line where people were waiting to make copies at a Xerox machine. When the participants gave no reason to cut in line, the compliance rate was 60%. When a reason was given (no matter how silly or meaningless such as “I’m in a hurry”), the rate went up to 95%.

It seems that we’ve been programmed to accept a request when it’s part of a larger statement – where the why has been spelled out.

Practical tip: Use because to make an impact with your argument

With all of your sales copy (website copy included), you’re developing an argument as to why someone should hire you, buy from you, opt-in to your newsletter, etc.

You’re setting up a problem your customer is having and then telling them why your solution is the one to solve it.

Go back to the top of this blog post. Notice how I used the word “because” to start a sentence.

3 Power Words to Get Your Copy to Convert

See how effective because can be?

I’m asking you to buy into my argument then asking you to believe in it with the one word that triggers acceptance.

Be careful. If your claim is too outrageous or request too large, even the word “because” won’t help you.

Langer’s experiments were primarily about how people will mindlessly react in certain situations. The copy machine example worked so well because the why behind the request was so minimal. As soon as the participants in the study told people they needed to cut in line to make 20 copies, they weren’t nearly so successful.

Tweet This! [clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Use your persuasive language thoughtfully, even if your readers don’t always respond mindfully[/clickandtweet]

#3: “Get” a word that provides value

With all the talk about A/B testing these days, “get” has become the conversion community’s “it girl.”

Between button copy and various call to action tests, the word “get” is the one to beat.

Check out Michael Aagaard’s split test where he changed the button copy from “Order information and prices” to “Get information and prices.”

Michael Aagaard copy test


As he notes in this test:

The word “Order” emphasizes what you have to do – instead of what you’re going to get. Whereas, “Get” conveys value as it emphasizes what you’re going to get – rather than what you have to do to get it. Michael Aagaard

The last thing we want to do is give people the impression that they will have to work for something when interacting with our websites.

Practical tip: Give all your “Submit” buttons the heave ho

No one likes to be told to submit to anything – especially on a website. So unless you’ve got a website for people into bondage, focus your button copy on the value added.

Think opt-in email button copy like this…

Get your regular copy tips now

You may be surprised at how much more effective your calls to action become.

Because, You, Get…

Take a look through your website, landing pages, and even emails to see where you can change up your copy.

Your headlines, sub-headlines, and buttons are ideal places to start. Then, test it out.

Do you think your copy can improve using these words?



Why Your Call To Action Copy Isn’t Converting


How often have you started filling out an online form and then stopped?


You were ready to click the buy button… then suddenly decided not to?

You’re not alone. It happens too often. Website users routinely abandon what they’re doing at the most critical moment – namely taking action exactly when it counts most…

  • No signing up for that email list
  • No putting in those credit card details
  • No filling out a contact form


Because the copy needed to reduce whatever friction the user is feeling that’s getting in the way of him taking action isn’t there.


There’s good friction and bad friction – and not much in between


When we’re talking about interactions with your website, friction isn’t generally a good thing. Friction means anything that’s making it more difficult for your users to get things done on your site.

Typical things that cause friction are:

  • Slow page loading times
  • Links that don’t work
  • Poor navigation

Add to that list any of the small bits of copy – otherwise known as microcopy – within and surrounding your calls to action that don’t help your visitor accomplish what he wants.

Instead of lighting a fire under your visitors’ backsides to buy those sweet new pair of boots or opt into an uber informative autoresponder series, the copy is leaving them cold.


Write your call to action copy with your visitor in mind


This may seem obvious but it’s not being done on the vast majority of websites.

Michael Aagaard, a CRO copywriter who has made it his mission to test button copy, has come to the conclusion that you need to be asking yourself these 2 questions before you can optimize your calls to action:

  • What is my prospect’s motivation for clicking this button?
  • What is my prospect going to get, when he/she clicks this button?

The answers to these questions will give you the direction you need not only to create more effective copy for your buttons but for all the copy in and around your various calls to action.


Real world examples from the copy trenches


You’ve got the questions to ask… but, now what?

Let’s take a look at 3 different areas around your calls to action that can create friction and some ways to deal with them.
1) Hesitations and objections

There are several things that can cause people to hesitate when they are ready to trip that trigger. These include such things as:

  • Not knowing if there are hidden costs
  • Wondering about if and how a purchase is guaranteed or can be returned
  • Feeling uneasy about the site’s security

Getting people beyond these hesitations generally requires either some reassurance or language that keys into how the call to action is relevant to them. Joanna at Copyhackers calls these “click triggers.”


Bullet points that reassure

In a test she did for, she created 3 variations of copy around the free trial sign up button. The control version had no click trigger copy surrounding it. The first variation included a brief testimonial, while the second had 2 bullets designed to stomp out any objections.

Why your call to action copy sucks

Variation C – The Winner

The above variation beat the control by 34%. Letting people know that they did not have to enter a credit card in order to start their trial significantly helped to reduce the barrier to entry.

Giving a reason if you want more information

Most people hate filling out forms and resent giving away any more information about themselves than they have to. In a 2012 benchmark study by the Baymard Institute, the researchers found that every single subject during the checkout usability test complained about a website that asked for too much personal information.

However, for those websites that gave a clear reason for wanting something like a phone number – test subjects were far more willing to provide the information.

Why your call to action copy sucks

The big takeaway here is that an explanation can go a long way to reduce anxiety when it comes to filling in forms. Make it clear why you need the information and what it will be used for without making people hunt for it.


2) Where’s the value?

Giving people a reason to click a button or fill in a form is one way of alleviating friction. Another is to let them know the benefit or value behind taking action.

Why your call to action copy sucks

In this test by Michael Aagaard, he increased the amount of sign ups to his email list by 83.75% simply by telling people what they would get after giving their emails.

How many times have you thought about signing up for an email list only to wonder if you’re really going to get anything you actually want after doing it?

Apparently, quite a few people wonder the same thing. By being explicit about what your visitors can expect from signing up, chances are they will be more likely to do so.


3) Control and ownership

Make the experience all about your visitors. That seems to be a key finding with so many of the websites I work on and the tests conclusions I see.

In a test on a landing page, Michael Aagaard and the folks at Unbounce found that by changing the button copy from 3rd person to 1st person they were able to increase the click through rate by 90%.

Why your call to action copy sucks

Is it because people feel as though subconsciously they have more control over the decision making process when the action is posed in the 1st person?

Or, does it suddenly make it all about them? – appealing to the very human desire to feel important.

Why your call to action copy sucks

You can read more about this test on Copyhackers.

Take a look at the above treatment. This is part of a test I worked on with Joanna at Copyhackers. We initially only changed the headline to the above and kept the original button copy that read “Sign up now.”

While the first variation trended up, we were only seeing a marginal lift.

Once we added the new button copy – placed in the 1st person and showing people a real benefit attached to clicking (who doesn’t want to see outfits they’ll love?) – conversions skyrocketed to nearly 124%.

Whatever the reason, more people felt inspired to hit that button with the tweaked copy.

And the moral of the story is…


The words you choose in and around your calls to action can make a huge difference.


Take all of these examples as a place to start not end when it comes to your own copy. What works on one site won’t necessarily work on another.

Go back to those questions I referenced above. Then, apply them to your site’s calls to action. You’ll want to consider any customer research you’ve done. It’s there that you’ll find the answers to those questions.

So you can start making some well thought out changes to test.

Has this inspired you to take another look at your website’s copy?

How to Make Swipe Worthy Swipe Files


Swipe files… everyone should have them.

That is – if you’re tasked with writing content for your business – they’re a handy little tool to have in your arsenal.

And these days, I’m all about keeping my arsenal full of tools that’ll make my life easier.


What’s a swipe file, anyway?


Originally, swipe files started as collections of advertising copy or marketing materials. Copywriters, especially, would keep files of tried and tested ad letters to draw upon for ideas and inspiration.

These days, it’s more than just copywriters putting together files of great pieces of copy they come across. The guys over at Vero, an email marketing SaaS startup, talk about swipe files as one of the top things anyone interested in improving their email marketing should be doing.

Anytime you see a great subject line, a good offer, a beautiful design or great copy, just add the message to your swipe file. Pretty soon, you’ll have a repository of inspiration that you can tap into when you are working on your own campaigns.

Jimmy Daly, head of content at Vero


A few reasons to swipe away


I can see the wheels turning in your head as you’re reading this… and you’re saying to yourself, “You mean I’ve gotta make one more thing for my business?”


“Is this going to involve spreadsheets? Because if I have to come up with one more spreadsheet I’m going to scream.”

No, I’m not not psychic. I’m just bootstrapping it like the rest of you and that’s what would be going through my head.

Swipe files are definitely worth the minimal amount of effort because they…

1) Help you get past a mental block

Whether you can’t seem to find the right words or you’re having trouble coming up with a structure for a sales page, looking at good examples from across the web can get the creative juices flowing.

2) Make great topic generators

For those of us who need to write blog posts, articles, or just about any other type of content, having a stash of easy to access files at our finger tips can do wonders when trying to put the pieces together.

3) Keep voice of customer data close at hand

Whenever you’re doing a bit of research on writing something for a new product or service you’re interested in launching, making the rounds of places like Amazon reviews is helpful. Take screenshots of reviews of comparable products so you can go back over them and pull out recurrent themes and phrases to inform your own copy.


Types of content to swipe


You can find inspiration from just about anything online… but the best things to keep stashed are ones that:

  • Provide some sort of intrinsic value – namely they’re the best examples to follow
  • Support the kind of work you’re doing

Otherwise, they’re just making your cyber footprint larger by warehousing them and more difficult for you to find the items that actually will help you when you need them.

If you’re developing online marketing for your business, think about creating swipe files for:

    • Emails you’ve received with memorable subject lines or content
    • Landing pages or sales pages where the design elements and the copy work especially well together
    • Individual website pages that you feel do a good job and are representative of your style
    • Blog posts with topics you might like to cover
    • Any bit of copy with rock solid headlines

Use Evernote to organize your files


So, how do you create these swipe files?

Using a bookmarking tool for the Internet is the way to go. There’s no need for spreadsheets – unless you can’t live without them for everything.

Create Notebooks then Notes

Think of Evernote as your online filing system. You can create notebooks and then individual notes to stick in them.

Evernote notebooks

Here’s just one set of notes grouped in a notebook in my Evernote account.

Swipe worthy swipe files



What makes Evernote so great for creating swipe files is the nifty little bookmarklet that you can attach to your browser. Go to whatever page on the Internet you like, click on the little elephant head icon, and get a smorgasbord of options how you’d like to save the content.

You can add tags to each note to make searching easier. Plus, you can add remarks and even highlight.

Swipe like a bandit…


The purpose of your swipe files are to inspire, give you ideas, show you how the masters of great copywriting and marketing put their content together.

I’ve spent hours pulling apart well performing sales and landing pages, blog posts and email campaigns. I’ve dissected headlines and button copy that have outperformed their control counterparts.

It’s not been to copy or lift pieces outright but to understand the why behind what’s worked and what hasn’t. And, that’s the benefit of having all these bookmarked and curated items to refer back to.

I can make the connections between what’s been done successfully before and how that might be instructive to what I’m trying to do.

How to get started with Evernote

I have paid for the Premium version of Evernote. It’s only $45 for the year and it allows you to search PDF documents and put your notes in a presentation mode (like Powerpoint.)

But, there’s so much you can do with the free version – simply start with that.

Here’s a couple of helpful articles that will give you the lay of the land.

Evernote for Beginners

10 Tricks to Make Yourself an Evernote Master

So, how are you keeping track of all the swipe worthy pieces of content you find?



How the Right Survey Questions Can Make Your Copy Better

How to Write Survey Questions for Better CopyAs soon as a new client wants to talk about a copywriting project, one of the first questions I ask is, “Have you done any qualitative research recently?”

I’m talking about things like customer interviews, pop up surveys and email surveys. If they have done them well, the kind of information you can get from them is pure gold.

And, it makes my job a whole lot easier… which means they don’t need me to do as much work.

If you’re planning to write copy for your site or landing page – wait… don’t dive in until you’ve done a little research

Whenever you create copy online for your business, it needs to get the ultimate job done of selling for you. Otherwise, it’s simply taking up space.

To effectively sell to your customers, your words have to do a few things:

  • Key into how they speak
  • Reflect their state of awareness of your solution
  • Address their concerns or alleviate hesitations
  • Convince them to complete whatever goal you’ve set out for them

How you do all of that begins with having a solid understanding of who these people are – what makes them tick.

Which leads us to… first things first, asking the right questions

Earlier, when I said “pure gold,” you’ll find it when you ask the right questions. I’m talking about little nuggets of insight straight from your customers’ mouths. These are pieces of information that inform your copy so you can do all those things like address their concerns and provide the ideal amount of detail to your argument depending on how aware they are or not of your solution.

Okay, that’s all well and good… but how do you go about asking the questions that will get the kind of answers you need?

The most important place to start is with the goal you’re attempting to achieve. Without clearly defining what you want to learn, you may end up spinning your wheels.

Know what you want your survey to accomplish

Seems basic but it’s worth spelling out.

Let’s say you’re developing a new sales page for an existing product. You know where you’ll be driving traffic to get to the page but you could use some insights into how your customers perceive its value.

In this case, you’d focus your questions around how and why your customers seek out a solution such as yours. Knowing the words they use to describe the “how” and “why” can help you better reflect back to them their reasons for seeking you out in the first place.

From there, you’ll want to think about the following when putting together your survey questions to achieve the best results:

#1: Keep the number of questions to a minimum

Remember that most people have a limited amount of time and patience – along with goodwill. So, keep a survey such as this in the range of 6 to 10 questions.

You can glean quite a bit of valuable information to help your copy from even a small number of questions. Keep the survey short, to the point, and…

#2: Relvancy is key

Make sure your questions are relevant to the task at hand. This brings us back to knowing what your goal is. Refrain from asking questions just because you’d like to know the answers. If they’re not going to serve your direct purposes – leave them out.

#3: Focus on open ended questions

When you’re looking for copy to swipe from your customers’ mouths, you need access to their actual words. This means asking questions that require more than a yes or no. You want them to express themselves as openly as possible.

Allowing them to merely tick a box will only give you so much, so keep them to only one or two.

#4: Bias will get you nowhere

Repeat after me, “No leading questions.” Don’t do things like include superlatives to your questions. Asking what your respondent thinks about your bright and cheery website design plants an idea in their heads about the site.

Stay as neutral as possible in your wording to generate the most reliable answers.

#5: Don’t make people think

Just like good design and usability on a site, good questions should be easy to understand. If they’re vague or overly complicated, chances are you won’t get the answers you’re looking for.

For instance, I made the mistake of asking on a recent survey the question, “What types of online copywriting frustrate you the most?”

This question confused a couple of people. Without including the words “to write” at the end of the sentence, they seemed to think I was asking them about what types of pages are the most frustrating to read.

Needless to say, the answers did little to help in my research process.

Examples of questions to optimize a landing page

Best practices are helpful but examples are even better. So let’s get down to brass tacks.

Here are some examples of questions I’ve used in the past. The answers have been instrumental in helping me craft more effective copy on various pages – including long form sales pages:

  1. “When did you realize you needed a product/service like ours?” – This is a question that will help you find out what the trigger events are going on in a person’s life that motivate him to seek out your solution
  2. “What problem does our product/service lessen or fix for you?”- Here you’ll be able to find out what your customers consider the problem to be. You may find there are problems you’re solving that you didn’t know about.
  3. “Did you consider any alternatives to buying/working from/with us?” – It’s always a good idea to know who your customers see as your competition. This will help you build a case as to why they should buy from you.
  4. “What concerns or hesitations did you have before you decided to buy/work with us?” – Being able to address any sources of friction in your copy is incredibly important. You can reflect your customers’ concerns back to them in terms of how you or your business will alleviate them.
  5. “What 3 words best describe our product/service?” – This can be a great question to add in. If you’re finding a few words that continually repeat themselves, you’ll know that they should be included in your copy.

This is just a start. Depending on your circumstance, tweak them as needed. Then, test them out.

If you need a little more help with the whole survey thing…

Not sure what to do with your questions once you get them together? Read my post on sending your survey out via email and the platforms to use.

The Dreaded Email Survey: Get Your Customers To Respond

What kind of results have you had with surveying your customers? Let me know in the comments.




When free shipping loses the sale

When Free Shipping Loses The Sale

The following scenario plays out in email inboxes everyday. Let me set the scene…

You get a friendly email from one of your favorite retailers letting you know that they’re having a special. Appealing looking pictures of pillows, pants, lawnmowers – whatever has been skirting the back of your mind but you haven’t wanted to pay full price for – gets delivered straight to your inbox.

There’s a coupon code in big capital letters with promises of free shipping.

“Sounds good,” you think. So, you bite.

You click through to the website only to find once you put the coupon code in at check out, you’re told that it doesn’t pertain to the items you chose.

You’re frustrated, annoyed, and likely ready to high tail it out of that website.

The offer of free shipping actually loses the sale because most people don’t like promises that aren’t kept. According to Statista, 56% of consumers surveyed in 2012 dropped out of the checkout process when confronted by unexpected costs.

Statista survey cart abandonment

Generally, this applies to things like additional fees or taxes that weren’t spelled out ahead of time. Getting hit with shipping when you’ve been told you won’t, definitely falls within the realm of unexpected.

Breaking down where it can all go pear shaped – a lesson from the real world

Let’s take a look at a real life example… see where things went wrong along the way.

Here’s the top portion of an email I received from a local company that I’m a huge fan of and have bought items from in the past.


When Free Shipping Loses the Sale

This jewelry company decided to use the Memorial Day holiday as an excuse to run a sale. Free shipping was the incentive which they made quite clear in the headline text and with the coupon code.

I searched around the email for a link or button directing me where to go. There was none as I scrolled to the bottom of the page. Eventually after clicking on the image, I was sent to the home page of the website.

A call to action with no clear trigger to trip is about as useful as an invitation to a party with no directions to get there.

I added two items to my cart, went through the checkout process, and got as far as typing in the coupon code.

No dice. The website denied the coupon because…the items were not eligible.

I went back to my email. Nowhere did it say the sale applied only to certain merchandise.

Guess what happened next? I got annoyed, then distracted, and ultimately, abandoned the website.

Be methodical with the entire process… from email to purchase

Start with your call to action

Decide what you want people to do and then make it clear and easy for them to do it.

Back in 1993, researchers in Palo Alto came up with the Information Foraging theory to describe how people search for what they want online.

In a nutshell, people behave like animals looking for food when surfing online – the only difference being humans tend to exert as little effort as possible hunting (for information.) We choose the path of least resistance and when rewarded with what we want will continue down the path.

So, providing a strong “information scent” – cues that give the visitor an expectation of a successful outcome by continuing down a path – can be the difference between action or inaction.

When Free Shipping Loses the Sale

In the case of the above email from the Washington Post, it’s absolutely clear where to click. The big blue button leaves out the guesswork.

Takeaway: Don’t rely on people to figure out what to do. Expecting your visitors to click on an image in your email that links to where you want them to go is not enough of a scent trail.

Make sure your customer understands the offer

Seems obvious but as the first example shows, it’s not.

Reading the copy on the email allowed me to make assumptions about the offer. Nowhere did the text say that only certain items would get free shipping.

This brings us back to another important element of information scent and foraging:

Always tell visitors what they will find when they click through to the next destination.

By sending me to the website’s home page, my assumption that anything on the site was fair game for free shipping was reinforced. If the copy had made it clear which items were available for free shipping then sent me to that category page, I could have quickly decided to continue or not.

Takeaway: Make promises you can keep. That applies to even the most mundane of things. Put aside time to think through your button or link copy. Then, tell people exactly where you’ll be taking them once they click.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

It’s easy to be in a hurry. You’ve got a marketing calendar and you need to stay on top of sending out your promotional emails.

The problem is that an ill conceived email can do more harm than none at all.

Shoppers already have a multitude of reasons to abandon their online shopping carts. From mere distraction to slow page loading times, it doesn’t take much to lose a sale online.

Don’t make a lack of trust in the process be one of them.

Design your email and copy to reflect exactly what your customers will be getting and where you’ll be sending them on your site. If you do that, you’ll be one step ahead of the pack.


The Dreaded Email Survey: Get Your Customers to Respond

These days we have a tendency to talk at each other, instead of to each other.

Think social media. There are a whole lot of voices out there screaming into the void. A social media monitoring company, Sysomos, looked at 1.2 billion tweets back in 2010 and found that 71% got no reaction. 23% of those tweets comprised @replies – or responses other than retweets.

In the race to continually churn out more and more information, it’s easy to not only lose sight of what we should be saying but how we should be saying it.


Yeah, the right words go a long way…


If you’ve been feeling like your online copy hasn’t been pushing the right buttons with your audience, it may be time to bite the bullet and get some feedback.

In a 2013 study, 74% of online consumers expressed frustration with websites that displayed content that had nothing to do with their interests. We’re talking about nearly 3/4 of the people going to websites being less than thrilled with their experiences online.


Start using the tools available to find out what your customers actually want… not just what you think they want. Surveys are a great way to start.

Start by getting your customers to answer your questions


The number one complaint I hear people say about asking their customers to complete surveys is, “I can’t ever get anyone to respond.”

I understand. I’ve had the same problem in the past. Here are a few tips to get responses:

#1) Be direct, clear and don’t ask for anything else in the email

I’ve made the mistake of confusing my email recipients by talking about too many things in the email and then having the call to action for taking the survey as almost an afterthought.  Surprise, surprise… no one answered my questions.

Make this email simple, short and to the point. Keep it to only a few lines and make the link highly visible.

#2) Phrase your email subject as a sincere but small request

If you have a good relationship with your list, many of the people on it will be more than happy to take a minute to answer your questions. Frame your email title as a question along the lines of, “Can you do me a favor and answer 3 quick Qs for me?

By letting people know that your request:

  • Will be a small commitment of their time
  • Serves a purpose – Let them know in the body of the email how it will improve their experience with your products/brand. The word because is magic.
  • Is highly appreciated and valued

you’re giving them fewer reasons to say “no” in their head.

Also, once someone agrees to a modest request, it’s far easier to get them to accept a larger one. This is considered getting a “Foot in the door” or a compliance/commitment technique studied extensively in the realm of psychology.

Go for a small yes and the likelihood of you getting a bigger one down the road increases.

 #3) Quantify your incentive (if you offer one)

Incentives to take email surveys, i.e. coupons, free downloads, one-on-one sessions, don’t always work. It really depends on your audience. So, be prepared for a bit of trial and error.

If you do decide to offer an incentive, make sure to quantify it. Let’s say you’re offering a free download to an e-book you sell. Don’t just say, “Take the survey and get my e-book for free.”

Make sure you quantify the value. If you normally charge $25 for your book, you need to tell your readers the reward for taking the survey is $25. Then, remind them how much $25 is worth – anchor it to something else like paying for a hardback bestseller at full price. Finally, hit on their fear of loss and the fact that if they pass this up, they’re essentially throwing away money and the chance to learn more about whatever it is you have to offer.

Say something like…

When was the last time you made $25 for sharing your thoughts for a mere 3 minutes?


Use good survey tools

There are plenty of online tools out there from free to paid versions that you can use. Here are just a few of the ones that I like:

Survey Monkey – They have both a free and paid version. The free version allows for 10 questions per survey and 100 responses per survey. This will not be enough for larger small businesses but if you are just starting out or want to send a very targeted survey by email to only a small segment of your list, it’s a good option.


Google Forms – They aren’t fancy (although there are some templates to choose from with graphics) but, they get the job done. Plus, Google does a very good job of allowing you to synthesize your data/answers into a user friendly spreadsheet form.


Typeform –  This service has by far the most elegant and versatile types of forms. I started using it when it was in beta and loved it. Now that it’s out of beta, there is a cost to unlock your responses – unless you only use their “Core” features. If branding and the style of your forms is important to what you’re trying to accomplish, this may be the way to go. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Start thinking about gathering your customer data now

Whether it’s through surveys you send via email, pop-up surveys on your website, or phone interviews, understanding what makes your customers and prospects tick will make for more engaging content and the copy that makes it up.

Not sure how to put together survey or interview questions that will yield the best results?

We’ll tackle that one in my next post. For now, take a look at the online survey tools and get familiar with using them.

Tell me how you’ve gotten the best results with getting your questions answered using surveys.


The Skinny on Conversion Rate Optimization


If you’ve been reading about online marketing and websites recently, you’ve probably come across the words “conversion” and “optimization” a lot.

Yeah, they’re kind of like the new “it” words… the cool kids on the block. Remember when keyword search and SEO were all the rage?

That’s pretty much what’s happened to these guys.

What does Conversion Rate Optimization mean?

Let’s simply start with conversions as they relate to websites, landing pages or even emails. A conversion happens when someone takes an action on your site that you wanted to happen.

For instance, this can be as simple as signing up for your email list, clicking on an “add to cart” button or filling out a form.

These actions are what we measure and hope to optimize or improve. Therefore, Conversion Rate Optimization – or CRO for short – is the process of analyzing qualitative and quantitative data to understand and improve the performance of your website.

Think of CRO as a systematic way to figure out what’s preventing your visitors from doing the things you want them to do on your site – then, fixing them.


It’s not just about conversions…

There are loads of marketers out there telling you that you’ve got to “convert” more. “Get people to convert,” they say.

Sounds good. Right?

The thing is that just getting more conversions doesn’t necessarily mean increasing revenues and your profits. As Peep Laja from ConversionXL has noted,

…but the goal should never be to boost conversions. Just lower your prices by 99%, and conversions will go instantly up – but you will lose money. So in the end the question we’re asking is ‘how can we increase revenue, and do so at profit?’

You need to be thinking about the goals and objectives for your website and how that fits into the larger picture of your overall business strategy.

A whole lot of moving parts

CRO from soup to nuts can be a very complicated and time consuming process. It involves:

  • Qualitative research (customer surveys, user testing, interviews, heuristic analysis)
  • Quantitative research (Google Analytics mining, mouse tracking data, etc.)
  • Hypotheses, A/B and multivariate testing
  • Implementation of changes

And, that’s just the extremely abbreviated list. The fact of the matter is that you’ve got to collect good data and understand how to interpret it correctly in order to make meaningful changes.

What this means for your business

Attention spans have shrunk and website visitors have become more savvy.

Basically, more and more people expect faster results online while having less patience completing their goals.

Usability and clarity of messaging is critical. Whether people realize it or not, they are constantly making decisions based on interaction costs with a web page. If there are too many competing images, the fonts are too small, the information is irrelevant or difficult to interpret, you’re placing undo cognitive load on your visitors.

As the web usability expert, Steve Krug, says,

Don’t make me think.

When you design, build and write copy for websites or landing pages that require people to figure out how to get things done, you’re going to lose out in the process.

Start optimizing, even if you’re site is small

Here’s the deal. No matter the amount of traffic you have on your website you can run split tests (running one version of a page against another to see which one is more effective.)

But, with very little traffic the time it takes your test to get to statistical significance could be so long – say 6 months – that it makes no sense to do. You need to get enough good data over a reasonable period of time – otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up for making poor decisions.

Low traffic doesn’t mean you can’t still optimize. You’ll have to rely more heavily on qualitative research.

This is where heuristics, heat maps and customer interviews come into play.

Not sure what any of those entail? Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts where I’ll talk about the qualitative research end of things, how you can use it to improve the copy as well as the overall usability on your sites.

In the meantime, check out these resource posts for more information:

How to do conversion optimization with very little traffic? ConversionXL

6 of my all time favorite conversion rate optimization case studies Crazy Egg

What conversion rate optimization experts often forget about: the customer lifecycle Kissmetrics

Have you spent any time trying to optimize your site?



How to Make the Most of Social Proof on Your Website

How to make the most of social proof on your website

Just this morning, I was looking for a plumber online. Plumbers, electricians, painters – these are the types of people that I really don’t like to hire without a recommendation.

The first thing that goes through my mind is:

“Is this person any good?” Then… “Is he honest?”

…and, my least favorite, “Should I keep my 80 pound dog by my side the whole time in case this guy is a nut?”

Without a referral from a trusted source handy, I searched the Internet and looked at several websites.

Most of them were terrible (the ones that actually had websites.) They had little information and no testimonials.

I wanted social proof – something telling me that other people had used one of these guys and happily lived to tell the tale.

Social proof done right makes a difference

There are various forms of social proof you can have on your website.

Testimonials, reviews, Twitter or Facebook follower numbers, just to name a few…

…and, they help with conversions. Big time.

Robert Cialdini, the guy who literally wrote the book on the psychology of persuasion, names social proof as one of the six principles that makes up its foundation. Think laugh tracks for sitcom television shows. While annoying, they work.

People have a tendency to follow the herd. It’s no different when visiting websites. We like to know that others have taken the leap – hired, bought, etc. – first before making a decision.

But… yeah, there’s a but in all of this.

Like most things, you need to put some thought into how you present social proof on your website. Otherwise, you might find it doing more harm than good.

Add a photo to testimonials (whenever possible)

For various reasons, it may not be possible to add a photo along with a testimonial on your site. However, if you can, do it. Here’s why.

A 2012 study called Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness – don’t be put off by the title, Stephen Colbert didn’t write it – found that people placed more weight on information when a photograph was attached. This study included photographs of lesser known celebrities where claims were made. Those claims made alongside a photo were more likely to be deemed true.

One of the best ways to utilize testimonials on websites is by embedding tweets.

They provide a degree of legitimacy in so far as they come via a third party application, Twitter. Here are two that I’ve placed on my main Service page. They give insight into why these people have been happy with my work and they are clickable. Anyone can reach out to these women and ask their opinion directly.

Negative social proof is worse than no social proof

Adding a Facebook or Twitter counter that notes how many followers you or your business has is fine as long as it reads more than a handful of people.

My friend Francisco over at Social Mouths has a lot of Facebook followers. He does an excellent job of showcasing the fact that there are 19,000 reasons why you should be listening to what he has to say.

Visual Website Optimizer ran a test to see if removing social sharing buttons on an e-commerce site’s product pages would increase conversions., a Finland based hardware store, had Facebook and Google+ sharing buttons on each of their product pages with zero to very few shares.

Simply by removing those share buttons, the company was able to increase click through rates on their product pages by nearly 12%. In this case, less was definitely not more.

Make your testimonials easy to read

Words of admiration are wonderful but big walls of text are not. If your clients write you a testimonial in the form of a novel, chances are your visitors won’t read it.

The reality is that most people scan websites to get just enough information to fulfill their needs. Psychologists call this “satisficing.” You can read more about it within the context of website usability and copy on the Nielsen Norman Group site.

Like any website copy, create easily digestible chunks of information with relevant sub-headlines for your testimonials.

Think of these sub-heads as micro synopses for your testimonials. Summarize in a few words what the main message of the testimonial is so that your visitors can quickly key into what’s most important to them. For instance, one visitor might find the fact that you always deliver on time more critical than your amazing creativity. If you can alert people to it in a sub-head, they may be more likely to read the entire testimonial.

Stop procrastinating…

If you don’t have any testimonials or reviews on your website, start working on getting some. The best time to ask for them from clients is right after you’ve completed a project. Be specific in what you would like them to talk about – even loosely frame something.

Basically, make it as easy as possible for your clients or customers to write something good about you. Don’t make them work or it might not happen.

Finally, pepper those words of praise throughout your site where they are the most relevant. If you’ve got great reviews for a particular product, make sure they go with the corresponding page.

So tell me. How have you used social proof on your website? Do you think it has made a difference?


How to Optimize Your Pop Up Copy for Better Conversions

If you’re one of the businesses utilizing a pop up on your website, no doubt you’ve seen how well they can increase your conversion rates. Email sign ups, special offers – they work so well because they bring whatever your call to action is front and center.

What if I told you that you can effectively better the results you’re already getting?

Plus, it’s not difficult. It merely requires you to spend a bit of time tweaking your pop up copy and doing a bit of testing.

You might want to take a second look at what you’ve got popping up on your site.

Give your headline the attention it deserves

Whether you’re coming up with a value proposition for your website’s home page, a title for a blog post or the headline in a pop up, your wording needs to be clear but compelling. Give people a distinct reason for taking action.

Reebok A/B tested it’s email opt in pop up to see if a more “benefits oriented” headline would increase sign ups to their newsletter. The only change made to the form was the headline from “Join the Reebok Newsletter” to “Join and Save!”

The new headline increased conversions by 40%. Clearly, the incentive to save money trumped the promise of only getting a free newsletter.

Tell people what they will get by taking action

One of the biggest conversion killers is lack of specificity. When people don’t know why they should click on something or what the benefit will be in doing so, they are more reluctant to press a button.

A test of the the pop up used on found that by detailing exactly what  visitors would receive by giving their email addresses, opt ins increased by 29% and 31%. The overall winner was the most specific.

If the incentive to sign up is a free downloadable guide with information someone coming to your website will find relevant, then go ahead and state that.

For example:

Download my free guide – 7 Steps to Making Pies with Flakier Crusts

is better than

Download tips and hints on baking better pies

The first example lets you know exactly what you’re getting and makes it clear it’s free. There’s less friction because there’s no guesswork.

Personalize the button copy

Believe it or not, the copy used on click through buttons can affect conversion rates dramatically. Just by changing the button copy from “Start your 30 day free trial” to “Start my 30 day free trial,” the folks at Unbounce were able to see a 90% increase in click through rates on their landing page.

How can using the word “my” instead of “your” make such a difference in conversions?

Perhaps, it has to do with giving people a sense of ownership in the process. At the point of action, the visitor is referred to in the first person. “I” get to press the button as opposed to someone else.

It pays to test

While these types of changes seem insignificant on paper, the results are staggering when implemented. The best part is all of them can be done in a matter of minutes.

Spend a bit of time looking at your pop up and ask yourself these questions:

Does it have a clear and compelling headline?

Is it easy for people to understand what the benefit is of taking action?

How can I change my button copy to reflect the first person singular?

Then, test out your changes. See how the new version compares with the control. You might be surprised at the results.

Final thoughts…

I don’t use a pop up any longer on my site. Considering they do help with things like newsletter sign ups, you’re probably wondering why I’ve gotten rid of mine.

I wanted to try something different that was still top of mind but not as “in your face.” So, I now use a bar at the top of the page – Foobar plugin for WP – that follows the visitor as he or she moves down the page.

I like it because it’s far less intrusive but still gets the job done. Is the bar working as well as the pop up?

Honestly, it’s not. But, I decided to forsake a few sign ups so as not to irritate more than a few visitors.

Here is where you need to decide what’s most important in achieving your business goals. For an e-commerce site, having a pop up that kicks in before a customer leaves with an incentive may create far more sales to offset the potential annoyance of a few people. A well timed and worded pop up in that instance makes sense.

In the end, keep an eye on user experience and continually make assessments about what’s working and what isn’t. Just because something is a good idea for one site, doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results.

I’m curious. What’s your feeling on website pop ups?


How to Stop Wasting Time on Your Email Marketing

How to stop wasting your time on email marketingIn the hurry to get things done, it’s easy to just wing it with our email marketing. It’s another one of those items on the list that you know you should be doing for your business but there never seems to be the time.

So, you hastily throw a jumble of new product descriptions or worse, a laundry list of updates about what’s going on in your business – that no one other than maybe your mother will care about – in your email.

It’s part of that frenzy to push content out into the ether. No matter what.

Here’s the thing. Without a plan and some insight into what you want to get out of your emails, chances are you’ll be wasting your time creating them because they aren’t converting your subscribers into clients or shoppers.

And, the last thing any of us wants to do is waste more time and energy on busy work that doesn’t add to the bottom line.

With that in mind, here are a few concrete things you can do to start making your email marketing more effective.

There needs to be a point

This is where spending a bit of time mapping out the “why” before you start drafting that email makes a lot of sense. Give some thought to what you want to get out of this particular communication. Not every email has to be about generating a sale. In fact, only sending out promotional emails can have a negative effect on your subscribers (unless they have specifically signed up to only receive that type of email.)

Your email may be designed to foster engagement or loyalty with your brand or to provide information you’re confident your subscribers will appreciate.

For instance, I begin the process of writing emails to my list by working backwards. I ask myself, “What is it that I want people to get out of this and ultimately do after reading it?” Depending on the answer, I frame the email to coincide with its purpose.

Make it about “you” not “me”

One of the biggest mistakes that people make writing copy either for their websites or their emails is losing sight of what’s in it for their customers. Always write in terms of how your business, product or service will be creating benefit for your target audience.

This means talking less about your business achievements and more about providing value to your customers.

Take this example from Alexis Grant, a writer and social media strategist that sells informational products.



















You can see from the top portion of her email, she’s addressing the concerns of her subscribers and discussing a common issue from their perspective. The reality is that people reading your emails want to know about how you’re going to help them. 

Does this mean you should be leaving the personal pronouns out? No. Weaving in your own story and personalizing can go a long way to creating a connection with your customers. Just remember that this is a conversation and making it all about you doesn’t inspire others to communicate.

Cut out the clutter

When you’re not sure what to include in your email newsletter, stop yourself from tossing in everything but the kitchen sink. The newsletters that discuss the holiday open house, include information on five new products and pepper the page with social media icons and links leads to eyes glazing over.

Our brains can only process so much information at any one time. When there’s too much they go into cognitive overload.  In fact, studies have shown that our short-term memories can only hold between 5 and 7 chunks of information at one time.

Cramming an email full of multiple graphics and creating dense blocks of text in small fonts, makes it difficult for people not only to glean out the most important aspects but also to remember what they are.

Check out this email from University of Minnesota and look at all the items competing for your attention.

email conversion


















Newsflash: People are busy and lazy.  They want to scan and expend as little cognitive energy as possible.

Make it easy for them by keeping the paragraphs very short, using relevant headlines and sub-headlines to break up the content and make it clear what they will be getting out of whatever they’re investing their time in.

Have a definitive call to action

Let’s circle back to that whole, “what’s the point” idea. Ultimately, the goal of your online marketing is to create outcomes to grow your business’s bottom line. In order to do that, you need your customers to take action in some form – even if that means simply clicking through to read a blog post on your website.

It’s all about moving your customers into your sales funnel wherever their needs fit at the moment. Having a clear call to action, preferably only one, will help to do that.

email conversion












As you can see in the above email, the blue buttons make it obvious where you need to click to take action. There are a couple of things that would have made this email better from a conversion standpoint.

Reducing the size of the Pinterest and Facebook buttons would help reduce distraction.

Making the button copy more specific, i.e. letting people know where the click will take them or what they will be doing after clicking, would help alleviate friction. Something along the lines of, “Start sharing my ideas now” or “Increase my karma by answering 3 questions.”

This goes back to the “don’t make ‘em think” argument. Tell people what you want them to do and then direct them every step of the way.

What have your experiences been with getting your subscribers to take action on your emails?

Let me know in the comments.