Copywriting

Is Your Headline Suffering from “TMI”?

TMI = Too Much Information

Time and again, we see long copy outperform short copy in split tests…

But long copy usually means long pages – not lengthy page elements.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised when we ran two headline tests – detailed in our brand-new ebook The Great Value Proposition Test – and discovered that saying too much too soon is as BAD in a headline as it is in, say, the dating world…

Watch this 5-minute action video to see two headlines that – as tests showed – definitely suffered from TMI…:

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We recently ran 11 split-tests of startup home page headlines…

And, let me tell you, when you run 11 tests, you come up with a TON of insights and takeaways.

About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copyhackers"

  • Ramsay Leimenstoll

    Hi there, Jo! I thought to comment on this actually after reading the case study of it in the new ebook. It’s very rambly but the concept is very difficult to put into words, so I hope you’ll bear with me:

    One thought that came to my mind when I read the treatments was that they really sounded much more like a business that’s trying to show off than the first one – which seemed so matter-of-fact that it was almost like a government site. I wonder if, because people were looking for something very serious, and normally pulled together by the gov’t (which doesn’t have any of that flashiness, usually), they were put off by something that made census data really seem like a *product* that was being *advertised*, and maybe that made it seem more suspicious and less legitimate. I may be completely off-base here, but anecdotally I had that reaction very strongly – the treatments (especially when they said “you’ll get” instead of “get”) made me feel like it was suspicious in some way… for some reason I have the impression that something as serious and legal-ish as census shouldn’t be jumping around for attention so much.

    It may be because this type of service doesn’t seem to be common; obviously there are many services that deal with mundane or serious or government-related information or tasks (like doing taxes), but I think that as more competitors pop up the idea of getting this help/information from a source that ISN’T the government seems more and more legitimate, so they can pitch themselves more like a traditional business would, because that doesn’t seem scammy or suspicious anymore. I think it reminded me of sites where you can pay to look up information using people’s phone numbers, etc. which often give the impression of being for very suspicious or… err… stalkery people. It didn’t seem like someone with a legitimate use for it would need to be outright convinced by anything other than the facts, so legitimate people might think that this site is targeting less-legitimate data-seekers, and then leave.

    If my hypothesis is correct for other site visitors, I’d imagine that a USP that still boasts the helpful way the data’s packaged and that it’s all in one place, but DOESN’T use “you” or more casual terms, would out-perform the control.

    (Also, “without any government red tape” made me think that it was some sort of back-door workaround the government, which would send me running for the hills).

  • Something to keep in mind that I often tell clients is to be clear on what the very next step is… and then only work what will make the visitor do that. If a home page’s goal is to get someone to click on a “more info” button, then I don’t need to sell the product. That’s doing too much. I just need to get them to click the button.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Exactly! This is particularly valuable advice for landing pages and squeeze pages. Your efforts should be to do what it takes to get the person to take the next step. When you’re on a squeeze page, this is critical — because there’s rarely anywhere else for your visitor to ‘float’ away to if your content fails to get them to take that step.

  • nickmarshall

    The lesson here is that visitor motivation is more important than the proposition. A proposition offering something for a cost against another proposition that does not invoke cost will always be at a disadvantage. You don’t really have the space in a proposition to outline all the reasons why something that costs may be far better value than something for nothing. We all want something for free so there is an unfair advantage in pitting an implied free proposal against one which costs. So I think the answer is to steer well clear of bringing price into a proposition or any words that imply something to do with cost because you will turn people off or attract the wrong people if you use words like “budget” or “cheap”. This is lowest common denominator hip pocket stuff. I think you need to seek out other motivations.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      *Unless* price is the one highly desirable thing you have to offer… or you’re differentiating as the ‘low cost leader’. In that case, leading with price can go a long way and may very well be the core of your USP. …..But whatever the case, yes, totally: motivation seems to trump everything else, including your value prop. Thanks, Nick!

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