Copywriting

The Question of Asking Questions

Compare these 2 pop-ups side by side:

Should you ask questions in your copy?

They’re exactly the same – except for the headline.

Which one do you think converts better over at TimGrahl.com?

I’ll tell you soon.

But to attempt to answer that question, we need to think through this:

  1. Should you ask questions in your copy?
  2. Should you “get personal” or establish familiarity in your copy?
  3. What happens when a button does or doesn’t reflect a headline? (take a look at the opt-out button above to see what i mean)

Should you ask questions in your copy?

Questions are tricky things.

The words you use to shape your questions are just as tricky.

So says science.

Researchers have shown that asking eyewitnesses questions in a misleading way can cause them to incorrectly recall what they saw. Not only does the way you ask a question impact the answer but the very act of asking a question can bias a response and change the respondent’s behavior. And even asking hypothetical questions can impact choice. (More about these 3 studies here)

I’ve said a handful of times – like on Page Fights – that the only questions you should ask in your copy are those that prompt your prospect to give the answer you want.

Put differently, you should never ask questions that could turn your prospect against your offer.

For example, this is a bad question: “Are you ready for the vacation of a lifetime?”

Why?

Because even good prospects could answer “no.”

In fact, it’s quite likely that the answer is “no” for nearly everyone.

Not because the vacation of a lifetime isn’t great.

But because the prospect isn’t ready for it.

A phrase I will never say.
A phrase I will never say.

And, to be clear, it’s not that the phrasing “are you ready” is universally problematic. Football fans who are ready for some football respond like lunatics to the phrase “are you ready?” The guy on the overhead asking an auditorium “Are you ready for Taylor Swift?” is bound to get nothing but mad wails in reply. Good mad wails. Yes, yes, they are ready.

The problem is asking ANY question that could easily be answered in a way that runs counter to your (and your prospect’s) goals.

Check out this example:

Asking questions in copy on Basecamp

Suddenly it’s easy to see how questions can fail us, isn’t it? No one’s hungry for more Basecamp “learnings.” So why would Basecamp, with their history of writing and advocating for outstanding copy, use such a question? As someone who’s written a lot, I’m answering that Q on experience: it is very, very convenient to ask a question to segue into the point we really want to make.

If you’re going to ask a question, don’t do it just as a segue. Do it intentionally. Start by following this clever advice from Erin at Time for Cake:

Questions in copy

Any question you ask is copy, after all, which means that it should be working to get your prospect that much closer to choosing you. If you ask a question, it should help the visitor get stoked about trying your software or hiring your team or submitting an order for a custom ugly Christmas sweater.

Here’s what that means, practically speaking…

NOT THIS QUESTION…

Want to start managing projects in Flow? Click here to get started

NOT THIS QUESTION…

Would you like to have a consultation with a life coach? Book a free call

NOT THIS QUESTION…

Are you ready to upgrade to Buffer Premium? Upgrade now

 

…BUT THIS QUESTION

Would your team like to do more in less time? Click here to get started

…BUT THIS QUESTION

Wouldn’t you like to leave a legacy of happiness? Book a free call

…BUT THIS QUESTION

Isn’t it worth $19/mo to dominate social? Upgrade now

We want our good prospects to give a resounding “YES!” as the answer.

Getting that means you’ve asked a good question.

Which brings us to this point: to keep things simple, ask Y / N questions.

BUT! Do not underestimate the power of the third answer, the one that exists outside of Yes and No. What is that answer, you ask? It’s the one most often given when reading any of these classic headlines:

Copywriting questions

 

Copywriting questions from olden days

 

Should you ask questions in copy?

The answer?

“I don’t know.”

What happens when we say we don’t know?

For most of us, the trusty ol’ curiosity gap kicks in, and we gotsta know the answer before we can move on with our lives.

(Remember, we’re talking about good prospects. Not the whole world. So if you look at “Is this the world’s easiest yoga?” and say “I really don’t care”, then that copy wasn’t written for you in the first place.)

When is it okay to ask an open-ended question?

One of the most famous headline formulas of all time is an open-ended question: “Who else wants __________________?”

That headline is powerful – and reused ad nauseam – because it suggests that a lot of people are already getting X, that a consensus exists among a growing number of people that X is good. So why wouldn’t you join in? But unless you’re really trying to show off your copywriting skills, is there any reason not to stick with closed questions?

K, now, should you get familiar in your copy?

If we think back to Tim’s pop-up split-test, one of the two headlines was this: Hi, I’m Tim Grahl. 

That headline is, at its core, dialogue marketing at work – or a sort of “dialogue copywriting,” if we wanted to go there. The headline is engaging the reader in a personal conversation, one that could be desirable and one that is certainly different from most interactions with brands off social media.

(We’re all trying to converse on social media, of course.)

But let’s go deeper than that.

What is the word “hi” doing in this headline?

Here’s what Tim says he intended when he used that word and this entire familiar headline:

I’m one guy trying to teach things I’ve learned and people tend to like me when they hear me talk, read my writing, meet me, etc. So I was just trying to play up on that.

At its essence, it’s trying to bridge the space between – the space that separates Tim from his visitor. (This TEDx talk explores this subject in a very emotional way. You should watch it.)

Further, when we’re writing copy, we’re always considering tone – and the word “hi” is simply quite tonal. It’s informal, friendly, used commonly when speaking, used less commonly in written copy, and unlikely to cross a line (except in cultures and situations where formality is required on first meetings – like in Jane Austen times or in Japanese business).

So consider this. Studies with fMRIs have shown that:

The brain takes speech and separates it into words and “melody” – the varying intonation in speech that reveals mood, gender and so on. … [W]ords are then shunted over to the left temporal lobe for processing, while the melody is channelled to the right side of the brain, a region more stimulated by music.

As the guys at Buffer put it: our brain uses two different areas to identify the mood and then the actual meaning of the words.

What might the brain do when it encounters the arguably melodic phrase, “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl”? Might such phrasing – and the tone implicit in it – be a new ‘way in’ to the prospect’s mind, a mind we’re always trying to slip into? Could it set a mood?

…And is that mood good or bad, problematic or helpful?

And – last but not least – what does button copy have to do with headline copy?

I could talk endlessly about buttons. And I have – at Rainmaker (then Authority) 2014 and here on Copyblogger.

Last year, I spoke at CTA Conf about the need for buttons and headlines to work together. This was based on a handful of split-tests that showed – again and again – that as powerful as the headline continues to be, call-to-action buttons are creeping up and, in my experiences, even overtaking the headline due to the fact that the button is the very site of conversion online. You can read a headline and not convert, but you can’t convert without interacting with a button.

I broke down my findings (on tests I ran with the help of Jen Havice) in this post.

A key takeaway was this: when a button is in close proximity to a headline, it can be beneficial to make the button copy closely reflect the headline copy, especially the action in the headline. Here’s an example of how doing so has performed in the past:

Headlines and buttons

In the Schedulicity case above, when the button didn’t closely reflect the headline, clicks were lower than when it did.

So now let’s look at this truncated view – headlines and CTAs only – from the Tim Grahl test in question:

Tim Grahl pop-up case study on Copy Hackers

The opt-in button copy “Download Now” doesn’t reflect either of the headlines.

The opt-out button copy “No, I’m selling enough” doesn’t reflect “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” but does come close to matching “Want to sell more books?” That is, the opt-out copy seems to be part of the same conversation as “Want to sell more books?” but not part of the “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” convo.

Where does that leave us?

It leaves me asking this: If the opt-out is a better “fit” as a button – if it’s following the rules and is thus optimized to be clicked – might that drive opt-outs up, thus driving opt-ins down? 

Which brings us to the results of Tim’s two-way split-test:

Let me repeat the contenders for you:

Should you ask questions in your copy?

Based on what you’ve read above, which of the two do you think is bringing in more sign-ups?

One converts at 4.28%.

The other at 2.92%. 

The winner?

“Hi, I’m Tim Grahl.”

Are you surprised? Weigh in below, and let’s talk.

~jo

About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copy Hackers"

  • Harry Chittenden

    Natasha has a great point. What is the context here? For myself, the name Tim Grahl meant nothing (no longer). If it had said, “Hi, I’m Joanna Wiebe,” I would have been inclined to click. As such, my guess is that if you presented this choice to an audience with no attachment to Tim, “Want to sell more books?” would have taken it.

    Thank you, Joanna, for a great post and thank you, Tim, for sharing!

  • A great post (per usual). I had a hunch when I first started reading and was surprised to see that the “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” headline was the winner. That said, the more time I spend in the optimization industry, the more I’m convinced of the uniqueness of every target audience – I’d be interested to know how many of the visitors that entered the funnel actually completed an order. I’d also be really interested to know where most of Tim’s traffic comes from: are most visitors already familiar with his work, have they seen him speak or read a referral piece? The source media may be doing some of the contextualizing for the visitor beforehand, making them more inclined to respond to the familiar headline. I bet he’d see even greater lift if the button copy corresponded better to either headline. It’s always a pleasure reading your stuff, Joanna. Thank you!

  • Very nice article! I’m curious about if A/B-testing might have different seasonal outcomes. Couldn’t it be that these numbers change over the year reflecting people’s moods and that one type work better in the summer than in the winter or vice versa? Are you aware of any research in that direction?

  • geoffashton34

    Fabulous post as usual! I’ve read a couple of your posts now where it’s clear the trend is towards having an ‘opt-out’ button as well as an opt-in button, and I’ve seen Derek Halpern employ the same tactic. My question is, where can you get pop-ups forms like this? Lead pages don’t appear to have them. Sumo-me do, but I can’t afford their prices just yet. Any other providers? Many thanks.

  • I was at http://blog.videofruit.com/intro-plinko/ and saw a screenshot of this post and came here to look for it. This is gold. Netrepreneurs should study your stuff daily.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      So cool of you to say! Thanks, Paul. 🙂

  • Great article, really great. I use Leadpages and Sumome and only Sumome has the double cta (in welcome mat). I’ve just gone and edited my button copy and headlines after reading this.

    Thanks for a very helpful piece of content.
    – Larry

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Fab! Let us know how your edits end up performing, Larry.

  • Roy Cowup

    Joanna, this article surprised me because at the start, I was like of course the popup with headline “want to sell more books?” will convert better.

    It was a great learning for me, thank you.

    In my point of view, popups with questions work best in survey type popups for instance, I am using http://www.picreel.com/ to show this kind of survey to abandoning visitors on my website. I conduct a short survey normally one question with multiple options to choose from. It goes like this, “Can we ask why you are leaving our website after adding an item into your cart?” Then the customer selects the option.

    This method has worked extremely well for me and if you ask visitors direct questions via popups about their experience with your website, they are sure to respond and that’s one way of making your website better at user-experience and in the long-run, it increases conversion rate.

    Thanks again

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Totally believe it! With a question like that, it’s easy to answer yes (or no). I’m not convinced that it’s quite so easy to answer the question, “Want to sell more books?”

  • Boyan Moskov

    I’m really curious if the “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” headline converts better, because the CTA is connected to the other headline “Want to sell more books?” and that get’s people click on “No, I’m selling enough” or because it resonates better with visitors as a headline, if we exclude the CTA text?

    Maybe you should do same A/B test with different CTAs, for instance “Yes, I want to sell more books!” and “I’m not interested”.

    What do you think?

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Agreed! More tests are definitely on the horizon for Tim. There are so many things we need to do to unpack the results here. Fun times! 🙂

  • Hmm, sounds like personality trumps. Can’t say I’m surprised as every writerly website assumes I want to sell more books- who wouldn’t? But I don’t have time for more cut and dried advice; I want someone to guide me and be a pleasure to check out when their name pops up in my inbox.
    Love how you do all the grunt work for me so I can tweak your findings to suit my needs without having to start from scratch. Thanks!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      That’s me, professional grunt-worker. 😉

      The question remains: did personality actually trump here? Might a different question – one that visitors were ready to say yes to – have beat personality? Might a worse opt-out button have made it less desirable to click the opt-out? So many questions…

  • Neat result! One variable that I suspect might be at play in this test is the fact that pop-ups are part of *interruption*-based marketing, whereas standard sales page headlines usually are not.

    When you put the headline copy in the context of interruption (essentially shoving it under an unsuspecting visitor’s nose), the at-a-glance LIKEABILITY of the copy might end up playing a far more important role than any other. Because anything less than likeable/respectful is just plain rude/annoying.

    Like, imagine being at a bookstore browsing books on writing & self-publication and a stranger walks up to you and just blurts out “Hey! Wanna sell more ebooks?” like some shady used-car salesman, vs. if he respectfully introduced himself, THEN explained how he might help you …One stands out as far more appealing than the other when put in this context.

    Conversely: Imagine you were browsing book titles at that book store, looking for books on self-publication, and the title on the spine of one book said “Wanna sell more ebooks?” while another said “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl.”

    Which would you choose then? In that context — i.e. copy OUTSIDE of an interruption-based context — you might get a different result!

    Would love to see how this split test plays out using those headlines on the landing-page of that popup, too! That would be hella cool.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      That’s a great point, Momoko – and it’d make for an interesting test or two. The headline test you mentioned, totally. Also another variation of the pop-up that pushes the “people sign up when you interrupt them in a human, likeable way” hypothesis a little further.

  • Renato Targa

    My line of thought to guess it correctly: if I am about to ask for help, should I ask a consultant’s automated business or can I ask himself directly? If he is willing to use his name boldly, probably he is good enough, I can check his credentials and I it implies I will interact with him not some recorded videos. In Cialdini’s terms: this strategy creates an authority trigger.

  • I wanted to sign up but it gaves an error that I was going to make a connection with an ‘insecure connection’ .. unfortunately

    • Joanna Wiebe

      We’ve fixed that – should all be good, Filip!

  • I wonder if “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl.” converted better because “Want to sell more books?” triggers reactance with more people thinking “what are you trying to sell me?” The “Want to sell more books?” headline also prompts a question that the other doesn’t (who are you?).

    The NOT THIS QUESTION… BUT THIS QUESTION analysis is super helpful.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Yeah, and if that’s the case, then Tim might want to keep “Want to sell more books” if he does plan to sell, even if the sign-ups are lower.

  • Meagan Albury

    Just a thought: The headline: “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” matches the dialogue beneath: “I’ve helped dozens of authors hit the NYT and WSL lists. I can help you too.” It’s copy – but it reads as dialogue with the use of the pronoun “I” – so right off the bat I feel like I’m being addressed by a human rather than an ad – the other one feels more like an ad – and that ad ultimately will lead me to an email in my inbox wanting me to spend money. It feels impersonal and all about getting me to buy EVEN though the copy below the headline uses the same “I” statements.
    But “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” gives me a sense of a person who has real, actionable knowledge to to share with me. If I were seeking this type of information – I would be much more inclined to purchase from Tim – who positions himself as an authority and is also offering me free resources so I can get a “feel” for his knowledge and delivery style. I already know that if I accept the freebies I will 1. Be added to his email list and 2. Receive emails telling me about a training course or book or webinar he would like me to purchase. So the free resources combined with his personal approach – already make me inclined to accepting his emails and learning more about who he is and what he does and whether it can help me. Phew!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Nice [big] point! It reminds me of Ramit Sethi’s “I will teach you…” messaging in a way. Writing in a one-to-one manner works so well in email and old-school direct mail copywriting – when you can use it online, why not? In Tim’s case, it worked. Always worth a test!

  • Cassidy

    Great article Joanna. I would like to add one key element that I believe should be considered though. One of the most important variables in deciding your copy/headline is how you are driving traffic to this form. For example, if this were traffic that is already engaged to “want to sell more books”, and you know this, then a personal headline is very likely to be better. Your potential customer will have a different frame of mind and expectations depending on the whole flow of how they arrived at your call to action. This very much impacts the messaging that will be most successful.

    In my personal experience, I often use a question in display ads to help narrow down my target to avoid paying for clicks that have no chance of converting. Since this user is already defined and should expect what you are going to offer, then a personal touch may be your best choice as a headline on your landing page/form. However, if you are less sure of the traffic you are driving, it may be that you need to outline their purpose for being there in the headline. Always be conscious of the entire flow that your customers may reach you and test against these variables as well.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Definitely and exactly! If a good amount of Tim’s traffic wasn’t ready to sell more books – if instead they were perhaps ready to write a best-selling book or start building their platform – then that headline, as good as it may be for the right traffic, was doomed to convert fewer people.

  • Bruno Bourget

    Joanna,
    This article really made my day!

    I’m 99% sure the “sell more books” Headline approach works better, because the problem is NOT actually in the Headline, but the conversation it creates.

    – “Want to sell more books?”
    Me: Sure dude!

    – I’ve helped dozens of authors hit the NYT…
    Me: right… who are you again? (So I can Google you?)

    So IMO “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” should be an H2

    – “Want to sell more books?”
    Me: Sure dude!

    – Hi, Im Tim Grahl.
    Me: Zup Tim.

    – I’ve helped dozens of authors hit the NYT…
    Me: Man, I need your help!!!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      …But “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” won. Are you saying that he should keep “Want to sell more books?” (even though it’s underperforming) and subordinate the winning headline to the subhead? Why wouldn’t he just keep “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” and add your subhead “I’ve helped dozens of authors hit the NYT…”?

      • Bruno Bourget

        You got me thinking. Not really keep the “sell more books” headline, but I would try a new AB test:
        1. Want to sell more books?
        Hi I’m Tim Grahl
        I’ve helped dozens of authors…

        2. Hi Im Tim Grahl
        I’ve helped dozens of authors hit the…
        Want to sell more books?
        I’d like to send you…

  • Leslie Camacho

    Hi Joanna,

    this is a fantastic article but I’m commenting because I really want to try out Airstory. When I try to sign up, I get an error message. Please add me to the list, I’d love to help kick the tires!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Egads! I know. That’s because I set up the box above and I am anything but wise in the ways of little technical details – so I effed that up. 🙂 But Lance The Genius just fixed it. So it works again.

      In the meantime, please sign up here, Leslie: http://www.airstory.co/

      • Leslie Camacho

        All signed up, thanks Joanna!

  • I don’t care about the pop-up. Your analysis of questions was golden, especially the “ready” one. Including that word in my copy is a bad habit of mine.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Cool, Josh. I too have sortuv default, “lazy” copy – the stuff that just kinda slips easily off your fingertips when writing copy. I have to stop myself with things like questions as segues.

  • Not surprised. That was my guess, but I wouldn’t trust my instincts over a good split test.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Agreed. Actually, when Tim first mentioned using the headline “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl”, I thought it would win ‘cos I thought it’d be accompanied by a photo. Just naturally feels like it needs a friendly pic of him. Turns out it doesn’t have a pic and it still won. …But I’d love to see the next test (after the button test?) run with Variation B: Photo.

  • Dan Thomas

    So my question is which of the two groups bought more? Intuitively, I
    would guess that the group responding to “Want to sell more books?” is
    much more ready to buy what Tim is selling than the group responding to
    the more general greeting. The value is not in the opt-in, it is in the
    purchase.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Well, there’s that. Of the many questions we have to ask when writing copy is, “How will we measure success?”

      For most opt-ins, you’d measure success based on whether a person opted in or not. That’s the only thing the opt-in box can be held responsible for.

      (More about that here: https://copyhackers.com/2015/03/measure-your-copy-infographic/)

      You’re assuming that the goal of every business is to sell. But as much as we all need money to keep our doors open, to grow and to produce more for our audiences, we’re not all trying to sell. That’s not why we get out of bed every morning. Look at someone like James Clear, who has a fantastic blog and a great big engaged list – and who isn’t trying to sell anything at this point. He’s a sharer. And people love him for it. And when it comes time to buy something from him, they will.

      If Tim wants to build a tribe of loyal, loving fans that read his emails and tell others great things about him, then he might measure success of his digital marketing efforts (not just one pop-up box) on whether he’s reaching those goals are not.

      If he just wants to sell courses, then he could measure his marketing (not just one pop-up box) against that goal.

      • Dan Thomas

        Thanks for your response, Joanna. Given the specific example, “Want to sell more books?”, I think the assumption that this opt-in, the only one we’re testing here, is aimed at selling something is eminently reasonable. Therefore, measuring how well each of the two choices get the result we want is relevant.

        However, let’s set aside the specific measure of sales. Many, if not most opt-ins, lead to a Call To Action. If all we measure is the first opt-in that takes the prospect to the CTA, then we are assuming all initial prospects are the same. We know they are not. Some are more action oriented than others. What I really want to know is whether the specific question, even though it gets a lower opt-in percentage, might yield a more action-oriented set of prospects because they know why they are clicking. That should be an easy thing to test. How many people who respond to each opt-in respond to the Call to Action?

  • Miranda

    I don’t know how to embed this – but this is how I feel about this post: http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view4/4244883/steve-buscemi-drink-o.gif

    • Joanna Wiebe

      haha! Steve Buscemi – always welcome on Copy Hackers. 🙂

  • Bob Caples

    I THOUGHT the want to sell more books was better, but FELT more drawn to Hi, I’m Tim. But if I actually wanted to sell more books, I might have clicked more readily on want to sell more. My initial impulse was to say that Hi required someone to know who Tim was, but then again, this is a way of introducing oneself, so perhaps not. Hi, I’m Tim telegraph that this isn’t going to be a hard, technical, jargon-filled, and boring slog. But maybe that only matters because I’m not in the market for help like this. One last thing: In a small, easy to consume ad like this, it may be that an oblique, no information headline isn’t at a disadvantage just because it’s so easy for the eye to pop down to the copy to see quickly what Tim is all about.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Great points, Bob! I totally agree that the tone of “hi” seems to set up a friendly, non-boring mood.

  • Linda Parriott

    Did you/Tim conduct on A/B test on the snark copy in the opt-out button? “No, I’m selling enough” might come across as amusing to some. But to some customers, the guilt trip is a turn-off. I usually click away from pages or tabs with this kind of copy, because I experience it as more insulting than inviting. What is gained by putting words in someone’s mouth if they aren’t interested in downloading now (such as when I’m on my phone)?

    • Joanna Wiebe

      We actually wrote a whole post on that, Linda: https://copyhackers.com/2015/05/choices-consequences-opt-in-boxes/

      Note that both variations used “No, I’m selling enough”. So it’s hard to comment on the button copy alone; we can however ask lots of questions about how the button copy and headline copy were – or weren’t – working together to drive clicks on the opt-out button.

    • Dave Garland

      I’m gettin’ older and grumpier, the older I get. And someday everyone purchasing on the Internet is going to get old, too. But they don’t have to get grumpy.
      And here’s how: you out there teaching all this stuff, stop preaching all these flaming ‘best practices’ ideas and just freakin’ remind us how to talk to each other again. People, this is common sense.
      I know you all have great ideas and great speculations about what’s working and what’s not but we’re not tuning a friggin’ Ferrari, here. We’re learning how to perfect, in one generation, what it’s taken hundreds or thousands of them to learn we like: to feel good. And many of you are NOT making this any easier.
      My ‘best practices’ as I get older and grumpier? Lead with your feelings.
      Like Linda, here. If you try and guilt or trick me into doing something, you’ll have fooled me once. Perhaps. But with business at the speed of thought these days, you won’t be around to do it again. So I’m going to lean towards the guy or gal who’s just honest, straight forward, perhaps amusing and clear about what I’ll get for my dough. THIS is the great lesson we’re all still trying to learn out here in the wild, wild, world of 21st C. engagement. Not how to reach me and make me do something like pawns of the Mad Men, but how to make me feel good that I even found you in amongst all this crap in the first place. Stop worrying about the myriad ways in which this isn’t being done best, and worry whether it’s really you that’s talking, so you can keep this up, and whether I’ll feel good and still like you after I click your button.
      Great post, Jo!!!

    • We actually did something similar at a SaaS company I worked at. They used a picture of my with my 2 young daughters and asked the questions, “Are you sure you really want to cancel your service with us”. The 2 options were, “Yes, auto fire this employee so he can’t pay for his kids to eat” and “No”. While, that was maybe taking it too far – but the results were impressive. I agree with you – it can be annoying, but they are in the business of making money. People hated pop-ups in the 90’s – but they’re still here because they work. We’ve figure out how to deal with them as human beings. It sucks – but the point is to get someone to stop what their doing long enough to rethink the situation.

  • Neil Wesley Flinchbaugh

    Very interesting test & post, Joanna!

    So based on your reasoning, Tim might want to test the first variation with a button that better matches the headline, such as [Help me sell more books!]

    He might also want to revise the opt-out button to make it less congruent with the headline, although that seems tricky–because any variation of “No” will answer the question posed in the headline.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Great ideas, Neil. I’m sure Tim will appreciate them. 🙂

      My point is more around what you’re saying in your second paragraph: the opt-out copy on the loser better met optimization “better practices” than did the opt-in copy. The opt-in copy could use optimizing, sure, but I’m more intrigued by what’s happening with the opt-out.

      • Neil Wesley Flinchbaugh

        Yeah, totally. That’s a really interesting way of looking at it!

        Another thing he could do is use something like Hotjar replays to see how people are interacting with the popup. I’ve watched a lot of these on our sites, and it seems that most people click the “x” rather than the opt-out button.

        My hypothesis there is that those users just want to close the pop-up as fast as possible without having to read & process the button copy.

        Which could be an argument for using a popup without an “x,” like the one you use here :).

      • Joanna Wiebe

        I would love to see click-mapping on these!

  • Eric Neyer

    How many clicks we talking about? The difference between 3% and 4% may not be statistically significant….

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Four clicks on one and three clicks on the other. …Is that bad?

      😉 It was significant. Hundreds of clicks per variation and thousands and thousands and thousands of visitors. (And thousands.) Not just a trending improvement but a solid one.

  • Hi Joanna, That’s interesting. Have you/Tim tried other “dialogue” copy style headlines to confirm this hypothesis more robustly?

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Tim’s continuing to test this pop-up – but I think his next test is going to be on the buttons.

      As for the idea of dialogue copy, I’m certainly not saying that “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” won because it was kicking off a conversation. It may have won because the opt-out button copy on the other variation was actually optimized – we don’t want people to click the opt-out, obviously, so we need to be careful not to make our opt-outs good.

      And then there’s the idea that the question in the other variation was one that wouldn’t necessarily be answered with a resounding YES! Writers with books may want to sell more books… but if Tim’s getting a mix of traffic that includes writers that do not yet have books to sell but are, say, trying to build their platform or just write their first book, then that question in the headline could be causing trouble.

  • Just my own subjectiveness speaking here when I see the two, the “Hi I’m Tim Grahl” one makes me say “hi” back, and ask myself, “who is this guy?” The other headline seems cliche to me, not bad, just not unique/creative. Interesting split test result here, and LOVE the reiteration on headlines matching button copy.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Thanks, Brian! I think it’s tough to look at these 2 headlines and make a call. My gut likes the “Hi, I’m Tim Grahl” option, but I could see “Want to sell more books” working better if visitors were all ready to sell more books. …And that’s why we test. 🙂

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