Conversion Copywriting Hacks: A To-Do List for the First Half of 2014

[Tweet “put these conversion copywriting hacks in your a/b testing calendar over the next 6 months”]

Before you do anything, you need to make this the year you set up – and use – an A/B testing tool. A proper one. Not some hacked-together jobby with moderately reliable results.

VWO is inexpensive and clever. Use it.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s feed your testing plan with 1 test each month. And what, dear copy hacker, are the best-performing and easiest-to-set-up A/B tests you can possibly run?

Copy tests!

Copy tests are as easy as typing a new sentence into VWO. Plus, since copy is your online salesperson, they connect directly with conversion.

Here are 6 conversion copywriting hacks you need to test in the first half of 2014.

Tackle one each month. Get a better site. Make more sales. Make more money. Thank me later.

JANUARY: Finally Find Your Headline 

We all know that the headline is the most important copy on your landing page. If you get it wrong, only the most motivated prospects will continue reading your page. But if you get it right – wow. The following home page headline I wrote brought in 26% more leads – each valued at $20K per month – for my client Beachway:

Beachway headline conversion copywriting hack

So, how do you find your headline this January?

Well, for starters, there’s not just 1 perfect headline for you. There could be dozens, with some performing far better than others. It’s not until you start testing new headline options that you’ll really see which headline resonates best with your prospects. In the Beachway case above, I scoured the Amazon reviews for 6 books on alcoholism and found it buried in the words of a reader-reviewer. That headline beat the control as well as 2 other treatments.

So here’s what you should do. Using Qualaroo or an alternative to it, put this 1 question on the landing page you most want to optimize (e.g., because it has high traffic, because it used to convert well but doesn’t now):

Conversion copywriting hacks

Of course, instead of “CRM software”, you’ll sub in the basic description of what your product or service is. So the part in quotations might look like:

“I want a wallet that __________”

“I want a time-tracking app that __________”

“I want a face powder brush that __________”

“I want a DIY design book that __________”

Your visitors then tell you what they want – and your job becomes feeding it back to them. Yup, that’s a conversion copywriting hack: swipe your prospects’ words. Stop trying to write. This isn’t English 101. You’ve got limitless ways to find your prospects’ language, so stop searching your own head.

When you do the analysis of the responses to this question, you’re obviously going to get a bunch of different answers. But there should be some trends and commonalities; group similar messages together. There should also be aspirational bits; make note of everything your prospects want that you don’t yet offer. Finally, there should also be some interesting phrasing – the sort of thing that catches your eye. (That’s where the gold is.) Don’t look for ho-hum messages. Look for the stuff that makes you raise an eyebrow, in a good way.

Here’s how you can categorize the feedback so you can actually use it to write headline options. Title a page or spreadsheet with the Q, then make and fill columns based on what visitors told you. Highlight interesting language you want to swipe.

“I want CRM software that __________”:

Isn’t Bloated with Features
(39 Comments)

does the basics and not one thing more

is like a smarter, better-looking version of Excel

doesn’t try so hard

makes Salesforce look hard

Integrates with Accounting
(12 Comments) 

hooks up with Freshbooks

turns estimates into invoices

shows me which clients are making me the most money

Grows My Small Business
(9 Comments)

makes me money

shows me which clients are making me the most money

tells me what leads are best

The column with the most comments is probably the column that best reflects what most prospects want. At least, that’s our thesis. From there, we want to find the best language within that column. So, in the example above, we’d take the highlighted phrase in the first column and – with a light touch – turn it into a headline:

Try the CRM Software Small Business Love Because
It’s Like a 
Smarter, Better-Looking Version of Excel

or

Get the CRM Software That’s Like a
Smarter, Better-Looking Version of Excel

That’s it. That’s your test-worthy home page headline.

 

FEBRUARY: Find Out Who Your 20 to 35% Are

In Where Stellar Messages Come From, I recommend you stop writing for 100% of your visitors and instead write for the 20 to 35% of visitors who are most likely to:

a) Buy from you

b) Be happy with the purchase (e.g., find it useful)

c) Tell others about you

d) Come back for more

Tweet: it's better to convert 100% of 20% than 2% of 100% - http://ctt.ec/9cERa+ via @copyhackersThose are the people you want to position your messages for. Focus on them – and let everyone else fall to the wayside. This will scare you; that’s how you know you’re doing it right. Focusing is how you get a better conversion rate. It is better to convert 100% of 20% than 2% of 100%.

Focusing on the best-fit audience for you is about doing what A&E has done with their programming: they’ve focused everything on, essentially, bearded dudes in their 30s / 40s – and they’ve got programming for that group exactly right. Sure, the rest of us still watch Storage Wars, Pawn Stars and Barter Kings. But A&E wasn’t trying to get the rest of us. They were trying to get 100% of 20%.

So this month, you’re going to find out who your happiest customers are. And then you’re going to keep that group in mind for the rest of the year (until you repeat each of these hacks in 2015). Here’s how: Briefly survey your paying customers. Even if you only have 10 of them. Find out:

  • Their age range
  • Their gender
  • Their marital status (so you can get a sense for family commitments and related emotions)
  • Their job or profession
  • Where they live (can be done with analytics instead of survey Q)
  • Where they spend most of their time online

To boost responses, make it easy for them to answer – so use multiple choice or radio buttons wherever you can.

Once you know these very basic things, you can focus your messages. For Copy Hackers, we’ve asked those questions and found that our 20 to 35% is:

25 to 44 year-old married male startup founders who spend a lot of time on Hacker News and very little time on Facebook

Surprise, surprise. That said, we’ve also seen a second group develop in 2013 – one that we might start creating more landing pages and maybe an ebook or two for:

25 to 44 year-old women in marketing roles, including copywriting, who frequent Facebook

Trust me: this exercise will dramatically simplify all the copywriting and marketing you do in 2014. When you know who your prospects really are – even if they’re not whom you expected – it’s easier to do messaging research… it’s easier to do product research… it’s easier to know what social networks to spend time on… it’s cheaper and more effective to buy Adwords… it’s easier to send emails… it’s easier to craft a tone. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G gets easier. And better.

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MARCH: Figure Out If It’s Time or Money

Everyone talks about saving time and saving money. Both of them. “Save time and money.”

The idea is that, when you save time, you save money – so if you lump the 2 outcomes together, you get double the impact. Right?

Wrongzies.

For starters, everyone can twist the benefits of their solution to claim they save you time and money. Everyone can. That means it’s white noise. Not sticky. Diluted nothingness. Lazy.

Secondly and importantly, nobody values saving time and saving money equally:

- Higher-income consumers have been shown to prefer to save time, which is a finite and extremely valuable resource for them

- Lower-income consumers generally have more time to spend than money – think of Extreme Couponers

- Time-related messages have been shown to generate better emotional responses, given that time equates to experiences and money to mere material goods

Your 20 to 35% DO have a preference when it comes to saving time vs saving money.

This month, identify any “save time” or “save money” messages you may have on your site or in your emails… and tweak them to reflect your visitors’ answers to these Qualaroo questions:

Conversion copywriting hacks with Qualaroo

Let me remind you that this is exactly what a great conversion copywriter would recommend you do. And you’d get charged a pretty penny for it. But you’d also see conversion lifts. So seriously do this, k?

APRIL: Sprinkle a Little Magic with the Word “Get”

You want a magic word? Here you go:

Get

Get is the most magical word in the marketing dictionary. Forget “secrets” and “cash machine” and “limitless”, all of which are so-called magic words that set alarm bells ringing and red lights flashing in the minds of your audience. Those are spammy words. Cheap words. We can do much, much better than those words…

“Get” is where it’s at. It slips through BS filters and elegantly lands right on top of the Conversion Button in our minds, pushing it like a pro. This month, it needs to find its way into your buttons, and it should probably be in your headlines, too! Check out these “get” tests to see just how powerful this little word can be…

In the Obama campaign, as James Constable showed here, the addition of “get a gift” led to 15% more donations – almost twice as much as the next-highest performing button variation:

Conversion hacks get

On Unbounce, Michael Aagaard saw nearly 32% more signups for BettingExpert.com by strategically adding the word “get” in the headline and call to action for a lead gen box:

Conversion copywriting hacks with the word "get"

The above 2 examples are for situations in which the prospect actually got something extra – whether a thank-you gift or free tips – but that doesn’t always have to be the case. The goal with using the word “get” is simply to reposition your messages so that the outcome of using your solution is clear, benefits-focused and unquestionably indicated by a word that means acquisition: GET.

Here’s a taste of what you should be doing this month…:

conversion copywriting hacks from to

MAY: Replace “We” with “You”

In honor of the month of Microconf, when I first presented the following conversion copywriting hack to a room full of startup founders, let’s talk about you. As in the word “you”… but also about your use of “you” on your site.

How many times do you use the word “you” in your copy? Now, how many times do you use the following bad words?

  • We
  • Our
  • Us
  • [your brand name]

“You” is a good word. So what’s the problem with words like “we”? Simply that they’re talking about the wrong person! In conversion copywriting, it’s not about what the company thinks or what the brand does; it’s about what the prospect GETS. The What’s In It For Me.

A really quick hack here is simply to go through one of your key landing pages and rewrite any messages that lead with one of the above bad words so that they, instead, lead with the word YOU or a close variation of it. Ideally, you’d do this exercise on every page of your site. It doesn’t take long, so why not?

At Microconf, I did a live teardown of a page by Carson McComas – and, in my teardown, I focused largely on his use of the word “we” throughout his primary messages, highlighted here:

we copy hack

When Carson took my feedback and applied it to his copy, he got this:

CRO copywriting hack - we vs you

Read both versions to see the difference. It’s significant. But the time it takes to make this tweak is totally insignificant. We’re talking 20 minutes here.

Remember: you’re not changing your message. You’re changing the positioning of the message, turning it around so it faces your visitor like a mirror. It’s the same message… but they can see themselves in it now.

Here’s a video that totally breaks this down, offers a deeper rationale for the word “you”, and gives you an over-the-shoulder view of exactly how I’d do this, if I took over your keyboard:

JUNE: Add 2 Click Triggers to the Primary Button of Each Page on Your Site

What’s a click trigger? It’s the extra boost you put around a button to convince more people to click it. Here’s how I explained why we need click triggers on Copyblogger:

The way I see it, there is a wall standing between your prospect and a conversion. Our job as marketers and copywriters is to get people over the wall by:

1. Knocking bricks down, virtually eliminating the wall
2. Sliding boosters under our prospects’ feet until they are high enough to step down from the wall

To knock bricks down, we overcome objections and reduce anxieties. To slide boosters underfoot, we delight.

Click triggers knock bricks down and lift prospects up. They are strategically positioned in very close proximity to buttons – and even within buttons – to get more people to click. This is not hard, and it’s not rocket surgery. You’re probably already doing this – but now we want to do it with a little more intention.

Because not every button can be boosted by any ol’ click trigger. This test, which we ran for Friendbuy, shows that some messages get more clicks than others:

Friendbuy CRO conversion hacks

Treatment B (above) showed a 15% increase in trial starts throughout the test, but it never reached confidence. Treatment C, on the other hand, did – it quickly pulled ahead of the other 2 treatments and stayed there. Which is why you can’t throw any ol’ click trigger down and hope for the best.

Every click trigger needs to reduce the risk and improve the desirability of the great unknown: what’s on the other side of the button. Here’s a handy cheatsheet for the various calls to action you may have and possible click-triggers to test:

Call to Action Type

Try It Free

Sign Up / Subscribe

Give Now

Buy Now

Leave a Review

Register Today

Book a Consult

Associated Click Trigger

No credit card needed

Get a free 4-part course

“It means everything to help others”

No-risk money-back guarantee PLUS free shipping

3/4 guests review this hotel within a week of staying

Attended by 50+ VCs and 400+ startup founders

NEXT: We’ll email you to confirm a time to chat

NOTE: The “call to action” language above is NOT recommended copy. Those are just types of C2As.

Your calls to action ALL need click triggers. There are no exceptions. As you may have noticed, great click-triggers can come in the form of:

  • Testimonials or quotes
  • Data points
  • Benefits or outcomes
  • Risk reducers, like guarantees and free 2-way shipping
  • Star ratings
  • Security icons

This month – the last month of this challenge – list out your top benefits, delighters, risk-reducers, short testimonials, interesting data points. All of it. Everything. Then, assign 2 to the primary call to action on each of your key landing pages. For best results, test multiple click triggers…

If you’d like to make a real go at these conversion copywriting hacks this year, pop your name and email addy in the form directly below – and you’ll get the right hack emailed to you on the first of each month. For free. Totes.

~joanna

Get these 6 conversion copywriting hacks in your inbox! One per month. Every month. Until the 6 months are up!
  • http://inbounddealer.com Vince Green

    Joanna You Rock! Very generous post and I am sure your follow up will improve performance.
    I have a question around the June section. With in the analysis you wrote that a “test never reached confidence”.
    How did you rate confidence? How do you define confidence?
    Do you have a rockin’ post about scoring confidence?
    All the best :)

  • Ken Dowling

    Just browsing this post after signing up for your latest course. Got to May, realised I knew about ‘You vs I/we’, but checking 2 of my 3 websites it was ‘Oh no!’. Fixing those as I write and it gives me even more confidence in the upcoming course value. Thanks Joanna.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Very cool, Ken. I hope that worked out for you!

  • Tatyana Gray

    I’m working on my January “assignment.” You’re a genius! I’m learning three big benefits of what my potential customers look for in a product (and which I was not emphasizing). I’m going to adjust my website, FB page, etc. to reflect my findings (hope they produce results, too).

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Stop — you had me at “genius”. :)

  • Clare Fitzgerald

    This is a great post – thanks so much Joanna. I’ve now added this to my 2014 plan

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Very cool, Clara! I hope that’s been working out for you.

  • http://webcopyservices.com/ Zafifi

    Great stuff Jo. I should be adding this to-do-list in my yearly planner.

    Thanks.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Totally, Zafifi – add away! More to come in July, for the second half of the year to-do list.