Just about every website has them. No matter how well thought out a website is, there are things get missed. Overlooked. Forgotten.
Especially when it comes to copy, it’s so easy to slap some words on the page and be done. You know what you’re talking about. Seems pretty obvious to you and your team what you want people to do on your site.
Isn’t it painfully obvious to everyone else?
If only your website visitors were mind readers…
The reality is that your website visitors are more than likely:
Distracted by the 5 – 10 other windows open on their browser, the phone ringing, kids crying, boss asking them questions, and so on
Impatient to find exactly the information that they want compounded by all of the above distractions
Ready to move on to greener pastures at a moment’s notice if they don’t get what they need without having to work too hard
That’s why it’s so important to set aside some time to review your own website copy and make sure it’s doing what it needs to do. All you need is a pen and some paper or grab the simple spreadsheet I put together to take notes on what and where copy should be changed.
How to pick low hanging fruit and make no brainer copy changes
You can call it a review, an audit of sorts, or – if you want to be technical – a heuristic analysis, of your site. Basically, you want to look at the copy (and ideally the usability aspects too) of your site in a structured and methodical way in order to establish how easy you’re making it for your visitors to achieve their goals on your site.
Yes, your customers’ goals are what matter here. Because if they can’t get from Point A to Point B or Z with the least amount of trouble, you run the risk of them not buying your product, opting into your email list, or starting that free trial.
Believe it or not, you can make big gains simply by taking into account 4 key pieces of the conversion copy puzzle.
Let’s break it down so you have an idea of what you should be asking yourself when you look at the main pages of your website.
Being clear is important. In fact, it’s really important. Research has shown that when information is presented in ways that are conceptually, visually, and linguistically less complex, people judge it to be more true.
This means telling your visitors what they need to know in a way that is easy to understand not only improves your odds that they will feel confident that they have landed in the right spot but will believe what you’re saying as well.
Get rid of the technical jargon in your copy whenever possible. Cramming the page full of multi-syllabic words that only a handful of people know the meaning of won’t help you get your message across.
[clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Making your copy simpler to understand isn’t about dumbing it down or never being clever.[/clickandtweet] Tweet this!
It’s about getting your point across and helping your visitors make decisions quickly and easily.
Low Hanging Fruit: Do you have a clear headline that expresses your value proposition?
One of the biggest culprits in the lack of clarity department is poorly executed headlines. It’s also one of the easiest things to fix that can make a big impact on conversions or simply getting people to stay on the page.
Anytime your visitors land on a page of your website, they should know where they are and what’s in it for them. Let’s take Unbounce’s home page headline as an example.
When you read their headline and sub-headline, you know immediately where you’ve landed, who the site is for, and what you’re likely to find there.
Take a look at the copy on your site and ask yourself:
Is your value proposition clearly expressed as soon as someone lands on the page?
Is your copy full of industry speak or jargon?
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our websites should be built for our customers – not ourselves. Sure, your website needs to bring in sales and/or leads for you but if it isn’t speaking to what your customers want deep down, that’s not going to happen.
So, your copy must key into what your customers are truly looking for when they pop on your site.
Spoiler alert: If you’re merely writing things like “Saves time” or “Get more cash in your pocket,” you’re not digging deep enough.
Low Hanging Fruit: Do your benefits strike a chord with your customers?
Why are your customers coming to your site and looking to buy your product or solution? Yeah, they probably do want to save time… but so does everyone. The way I figure out how to get to the heart of what customers want is to keep asking why until there’s no more why’s left.
For instance, let’s say you’re selling a weight loss and exercise program designed specifically for young, college aged women. Why would these women be interested in your program?
They want to lose weight.
Why do they want to lose weight? Because they want to get rid of the Freshman 15 they put on.
Why do they want to get rid of those 15 pounds? Because they can’t fit into their skinny jeans anymore.
Why do they want to get back into their skinny jeans? Because they feel more attractive and look healthier when they can wear what they want to wear.
Why do they want to feel more attractive and look healthier? Because they will be more confident.
Ahh… now we’re getting somewhere. The real benefit from your program isn’t weight loss, it’s confidence boosting.
These bullet points immediately tell you as the potential buyer what you’re truly getting from the course. It’s not just about learning how to navigate LinkedIn but how to use it to derive these pretty compelling benefits.
Take a look at your copy and ask yourself:
Am I addressing my customers’ why?
Does the page have bullet points or sections that highlight what my customers want to get out of my product or solution?
#3: Hesitations and Concerns
I’ve talked about friction and ways to reduce it several times on the blog. You can read about it here and here. One of the main ways of reducing friction so that your customers feel more comfortable engaging with your site is by addressing their major concerns.
How do you alleviate someone’s hesitations? One of the best ways is by giving them the right information at the right time during their customer journey process. Think of it this way, it’s tough to make a decision you can feel good about if you don’t have answers to your most important questions.
Low Hanging Fruit: Are you telling people where they’re going when you ask them to take action?
One of the easiest things you can do to improve conversion rates on a page is by simply letting people know what’s going to happen when they click a button.
Here’s a call to action box at the end of Copyblogger’s posts.
It tells you exactly what you will get and where you will be taken when you click on one of the course options.
Take a look at your copy and ask yourself:
Am I giving my customers enough information to make a decision or take action on my site?
Does my copy reduce their anxiety or add to it?
This last item touches upon more than copy. This is where I want you to think about all the things that may be distracting people from understanding what you’re telling them or being able to easily take action.
For instance, highlight the most important messaging and place it in its relative order of importance. Your value proposition generally will be incorporated into your headline and sub-headline. Tucking it into the middle of the page will make it more difficult for your customers to find it.
Low Hanging Fruit: Do you have elements on the page that you can’t give a good reason for them being there?
This is where I’m going to tell you to ditch the rotating sliders, animation, tiny fonts, and huge blocks of dense text. All of these items make it much harder for people visiting your site to focus on why they came in the first place.
[clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Everything on your site should have a purpose. If it doesn’t, it’s just a distraction.[/clickandtweet] Tweet This!
Take a look at your copy and ask yourself:
Are there elements on the page that are distracting my visitors from either understanding my message or taking action?
Does everything on the page serve a purpose?
Am I using a font size that you need a magnifying glass to read?
Go forth and get your analysis on
Do you have some low hanging fruit on your site that you can easily pick off? Use this blog post to get you started and this simple spreadsheet I put together for you.
You can add whatever pages from your site you want to evaluate. Take notes and let us know what you find.
I’ve noticed something interesting in blog posts and online discussions recently. Persuasion has become a dirty word.
We’re talking shady used car salesman kind of dirty – the sort of thing that brings up images of cheap suits, too much Brill Cream, and getting taken for a bad ride… literally and figuratively.
Pushy. Hype-y. Sales-y. I might as well add in slimy too. And, it’s all been in the context of copywriting. Or, to be more exact – copy that aims to sell.
Ouch! Persuasive copy just got lumped in with that stinky crud stuck at the bottom of your trash bin.
I’m finding all the chatter a bit frustrating. Reading comments like this one in a thread on GrowthHackers has started to make me a little twitchy.
“Persuasive copy can repel some groups of humans who are particularly guarded against overly sales-y websites.”
In case you’re wondering, my head still hurts from banging it against the wall. Contrary to this statement, I believe that in order to be persuasive you have to be appealing.
Appealing, repellant. Tomayto, tomahto. Maybe we need to talk semantics.
I hate to sound like an Urban Dictionary cliche but it’s about time we got bogged down in the meaning of words. Because I am planning on winning an argument… and it has everything to do with defining what persuasive copywriting actually is.
The act of persuasion means getting others to do or believe something. When you write copy designed to be persuasive, your goal is to give people enough compelling reasons to take a specific action while alleviating any hesitations that might hinder them from doing so.
If those people aren’t taking action or are getting completely turned off by what’s on the page, you’re not being persuasive. You’re just writing ineffective copy.
So, what’s the secret sauce? Or, the 3 key ingredients in persuasive copy that won’t make you sound like you’re trying to hawk the next latest and greatest snake oil…
Before we jump in, let’s get one thing straight. You still need to sell. There’s no way around it.
If you’re planning on making money, you’ve got to create an offer with the amount of copy necessary so your customers can make a decision to buy from you.
While this should go without saying, it’s worth repeating. Always ask yourself…
Does my copy honestly reflect how I want my business seen?
This is where that highly overused and borderline meaningless word “authenticity” comes in. When you’re trying too hard or trying to be something you’re not in your copy, your customers and prospects will figure it out pretty quickly. Neither your business nor your offerings ring true.
Can my customers trust what I’m telling them?
As Joanna Wiebe of CopyHackers once told me, you should be comfortable having your grandmother buy based on your sales copy. If you wouldn’t want her to make a decision to buy because your copy isn’t honest and transparent, no one should be reading it.
Tell them what they need to know when they need to know it
When you don’t give your customers enough information, the right information, or put it where it needs to be on the page, you run the risk of giving them the impression that you care more about the sale than them.
This means showing them your calls to action before they’re ready to contemplate buying your product or signing up for your trial. It can mean not letting them know why you need their telephone number if they want your free download.
Lack of information can be as much of a turnoff as too much… so can a big fat “Buy” button at the top of the page when your customers don’t have any good reason to click on it yet.
Make an argument, stand for something, tell ’em why in no uncertain terms
The most effective way to be persuasive is to build a solid argument. Spend the time to find out how aware your customers are of their problem and the solutions available. Once you do, you’ll be able to figure out not only how much of an argument you need to make but the words and phrases that most resonate with them.
Making an argument with the intent of giving your customers exactly what they need to achieve what they want on your site isn’t the same thing as taking a vomit inducing, hard sell, 2×4 to their heads.
Why? It all goes back to intention and your business goals. Shout at your customers only considering what you’ll get out of the relationship and you’ll have a hard time persuading anyone to buy from you.
Persuasive copywriting inspires without the hype…
If what you’re writing makes people feel like they want to take a shower to get the ick off after reading it, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re not listening to what’s important to your customers and honoring their needs, you’re doing it wrong.
[clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Because being persuasive in your copy isn’t about trickery or manipulation.[/clickandtweet]
If it is, you may be making a sale but you won’t be gaining a customer.The end game shouldn’t be the quick buck but happy and satisfied customers.
What’s your take on persuasive copy’s rap and if it’s just a matter of how we define it? Let me know in the comments.
Resolutions, challenges, realizations… are you tired of reading about them yet?
Because it’s what we all do. And, by “we,” I mean those of us writing blog posts and creating content online.
There’s a crap load of it out there – some of it good, some of it great, and some of it that’s about as appealing as that can of 3 year old pinto beans you just found hidden in the back of the cupboard.
Here’s something with the shelf life of a Twinkie but without the “resolutions” aftertaste… well, maybe
So, I’ve decided to give you something that kills two birds with one stone (so to speak.) I’m putting together a roundup of the 5 best copy and conversion posts I’ve read from around the interwebs. It’s got a whole lot of value if you’re interested in improving your copy and conversion rates.
And, if you’re a business with any kind of presence online, you should be.
Plus, it’s another way for me to connect with all of you without writing another deep dive, chunky post that makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. This is where my veiled attempt at ignoring any kind of resolutions just left the building. Keep reading and you’ll see.
Writing guest posts on larger sites has been one of my keys to success with my business so far. It’s given me exposure and authority I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten.
The only problem with these posts is that:
They tend to be long, exhaustive and uber time consuming.
I can’t always have as much fun with them as I’d like.
That’s why going forward, I intend to experiment more with my own blog. Write a “best of” post from time to time (by the way, I promise you’re almost to the juicy, value added part which is why you probably clicked in the first place.)
You may see some shorter posts, opinion pieces, and the standard how-to variety thrown in for good measure.
And, I’ll be looking for suggestions from you. Message me. Email me. Carrier pigeon… whatever works.
Without further ado… some “Best of” reading to get those wheels in your head turning
There’s so many terrific articles online. These are just a few of my favorites I’ve read recently and think you’ll appreciate.
This post is all about email subject lines. There’s a ton of posts out there about this but this is the first one I’ve read recently that stuck with me. It does a good job of breaking down what makes one email clicked over another.
To be honest, I rarely read this blog but this post caught my eye. Glad it did. If you’ve got a website, you should have at least a basic understanding of how to use your analytics. This post does a super job of helping you do that.
This is a mega long post from a couple of years ago. But, like all good Twinkie content, it never goes bad. It spells out how to think through the optimization process. Keep it bookmarked for a rainy day.
My friend Lacy Boggs is a professional blogger and has some terrific ideas on how to come up with new content. This post does a fantastic job of walking you through how to think of content ideas by looking at your customer’s buying journey. Brilliant!
So, there you have it. These posts should give you some new ideas and help with your online marketing.
If you have any problems that have been cropping up with developing your copy, let me know in the comments. You might just get a blog post out of it.
I have a little secret for you. Putting those automatic rotating image sliders on websites is a tragic mistake.
Awful. Wrong. And, just… so… terribly tragic.
Really, they’re that bad.
You might be surprised at how strongly I feel about a bunch of code that sits on a website making graphics shift on the screen. But, if you had read as many A/B test results showing what conversion killers sliders can be or done as many website audits as I have with those things taking up space – you might sing a different tune.
I know, I know. Loads of people like them
If you’ve got rotating sliders on your site and more than kind of like them, you’re not alone. Bloggers to big name retailers use them on their websites because…
They’re cool. Rotating sliders are dynamic. They seem shiny and sexy, especially when you read they’re part of a “responsive design.”
You get more bang for your buck. In the same amount of space, you can cram in lots of pictures and messages.
Everyone else thinks it’s a good idea. It’s easy to become a lemming when you see the same types of designs and layouts over and over. Conventional wisdom tells you that so many people couldn’t be so wrong.
I’m here to tell you that they can be. And, I’m not some sort of rotating slider hating lone wolf out there. Google rotating sliders and you’ll get a nice little smorgasbord of blog posts on this topic.
Would you put a velvet painting of Elvis on the top of your home page?
I hope you answered “no.” Unless, of course you actually sell velvet paintings of Elvis. In that case, I apologize for the comparison.
A rotating slider at the top of your website home page is a comparably bad choice – even if it’s aesthetically pleasing.
Here’s just a few of the reasons why.
#1: Cognitive overload
Our brains can only process so much information at one time. If you’ve ever tried to read text on an image that quickly disappeared only to be replaced by another, you’ve probably experienced cognitive overload.
The psychologist George Miller found that people can only hold between 5 and 9 chunks of information in their short term memories at any one time. This was back in 1956 before the Internet. Recent studies have found this to be closer to 2 to 3.
Images, graphics, and fonts that blink or move make it more difficult for people to grasp what you’re trying to convey – which has a tendency to create frustration.
#2: A waste of valuable real estate
The area near the top of your home page (where most sliders live) is the equivalent of Park Place on the Monopoly board. This is the first thing people see which means your value proposition needs to be front and center.
I’ve written about the importance of headlines born out of your value proposition more than once. Even if your slider images contain benefit driven headlines, they’ll get lost in the shuffle. It’s called banner blindness… and it’s just one more way people can shut out what you’re trying to say.
Users don’t click on slider images. One test done on Notre Dame’s website found that only 1% of visitors clicked on a call to action in a slider. Of these clicks, around 84% were done on the first image. The others only got around 4%.
So, even if you do get people to click, the vast majority will be on one slide.
The list goes on… but you get the idea
Rotating sliders do other nasty things on websites like slowing load time and giving marketers the illusion that they are effectively getting their messages across to different audience segments.
They’re bad news from a usability and conversion standpoint – no matter how you slice it. This means if you have one on your website it’s time to consider ditching it.
Think about doing these things instead:
Place a rock solid headline and sub-headline along with a relevant image to immediately key your visitors into where they’ve landed and what’s in it for them
Focus on directing people to a primary call to action
Keep the clickable options limited to avoid choice paralysis
And if you just can’t let your sliders go…
Turn off the automatic rotation. Even with something so minor – like browsing through a website – people want to have control. It’s Psych 101. Allow your visitors to move the carousel forward instead of dictating when they can look at the slides.
It may not help your conversions but at least it will not annoy your visitors quite as much.
If you’re interested, you can read more about the why from other conversion and usability experts like Peep Laja and the folks at Marketing Land, and VWO.
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.
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.”
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?
In a test she did for Friendbuy.com, 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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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?
“What Jen Havice explains in this short book is nothing less than a degree in message mining—what messages you need to share, what words to use, and how to find them. It’s an easy read that packs a major marketing punch.”
—Rob Marsh, conversion copywriter and strategist, Brandstory