Conversion copywriting defined

Presented live on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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If you haven’t ever sat down and mapped out what conversion copywriting (aka that thing you do for a living) is. Joanna is going to walk you through a refresher.

This could be that clarifying moment you need so you can start differentiating yourself from the more run-of-the-mill copywriters clambering for clients out there…

In this live Tutorial, you’ll walk away with:

  • A clear diagram you can reference when you talk about the work you do
  • A sense for any gaps in your knowledge – what do you need to learn more about in order to be a world-class conversion copywriter (so clients get why they should hire you above anyone else)?


Joanna Wiebe: Today’s tutorial is a rather straightforward thing that we rarely address in a tutorial because it’s not anything that you can really demonstrate or teach in a tutorial sort of way. That is talking about what conversion copywriting actually is. We talk about conversion copywriting, we teach it, but a lot of people, when it comes time to practice, you don’t necessarily know where conversion copywriting comes from and how it’s different from other forms of copywriting.

We want to talk about that today. I’m going to share a little diagram with you that will hopefully be useful. We started thinking about this because we’re redoing our conversion copywriting 101 course. For anybody who is in that, it’s my first copywriter mastermind that I ran years ago. It’s got Leanna Patch in it, and Joel Klettke and people like that, which is cool and it’s good and kind of old school feeling, but we’re redoing that with some different content to kind of help flesh out what conversion copywriting is for people who are new to it.

Let me share my screen. Okay, so you should be seeing my screen right now. We’re talking about conversion copywriting and what it really is. A lot of you, you may know what the conversion copywriting process is, and it goes a lot like this. We’ve got research and discovery, writing, wire framing and editing, and then validation and experimentation.

These are all showing as the same size right now, and they’re not ever going to be a same size in a project. When you’re first working with a client you’ll probably have a huge purple bucket thing there that’s research and discovery, you have to do so much, and then writing wire framing might be a little smaller, and validation might be much bigger because you have to validate, because you don’t know anything about this client and their audience yet. You’re making a lot of assumptions. Yeah, Joel’s process, Joel was, yeah. It’s a conversion copywriting process, it’s pretty straightforward, and then you color it with your own stuff as you go. Everybody has their own pieces inside of each of these phases. Research and discovery, you might finish that with a synthesis that turns into a strategy.

That would then lead over to writing, wire framing and editing. Some people won’t put a formal synthesis or strategy together at the end of our R and D, and they’ll just move right into writing and wire framing, and often times they’ll back up and go, “Oh, probably should have put some more thought into my process, or into taking the research before I moved on.” It’s just a good note that research and discovery doesn’t just mean do the research and then go do the work. Part of that is cleaning up what you have found so you can develop hypothesis. Then writing, wire framing, and editing, great, that’s where you write. If you’re writing something that needs to be wired, where the message to hierarchy needs to be very clear, then you’ll want to wire frame that. And editing is the last thing before you go into validation where you’re really at that point cleaning up things and doing your seven sweeps. Really editing in the awesome.

Then comes validation and experimentation. And validation, there’s lots of ways to validate. If you guys aren’t familiar with Usability Hub, go check out Usability Hub. You want to test or validate for clarity. Sometimes if you’re redoing something without AB testing it, you want to do a preference test as well. There’s lots of different ways to validate. Experimentation, of course, is the split testing side of it.

We’ve got these three parts. There’s more to it than what we’re seeing here, and the more you do the work the more you’ll start to flesh these sections out. But as a conversion copywriter, this is the process you should be following. People expect you to jump into step two and forget entirely about step three. You need all of them. You need to start with research, because that’s where voice of customer comes in, and you can’t write great copy without it. And validation will help you make sure you don’t eff things up for your clients. That’s the process, and it feels like everybody who’s been practicing conversion copywriting knows this process. If you don’t, take a screenshot, you’ve got that process now and you should be adjusting it. Not changing this core of it, but adding to it as you go.

Okay. Which then brings us back to, okay, well, what really is conversion copywriting? It’s not just the process. The process is one part of this. When we’re talking about conversion copywriting, we’re talking also about everything that feeds it. Everything showing here on the left is what goes into conversion copywriting. So we want to think about all of this stuff. Usability Hub, Mark, is just what it sounds like. So go to Google Usability Hub and you’ll get there. You’ve got on the left side, UX interaction and human factors. When I’m walking you through these components, this isn’t exhaustive, this is just what you need to know to be a strong conversion copywriter. If you’re looking on the left side of this conversion copywriting beaker thing, yes, it’s Joel Klettke.

Carrie, can you look up Joel Klettke’s latest article and just… Carrie will pop it in there for you.

Okay, cool, cool. We’ve got everything over on the left that you want to know about. You want to know how to do it. If you’re like, “Okay, I feel like I need to take training, but I don’t know what it should be on.” Sometimes it’s going to be on conversion, on actual copywriting. Other times you’ll want to flesh out more of what’s going on on the left here, like do you know anything about interaction design? When I say human factors, do you know what that means? That’s go Google it. Google is your friend, obviously. Go check that stuff out.

You probably know the voice of customer research because we talk about it all the time. But we talk about voice of customer research and there’s a lot behind the scenes there. So voice of existing customer versus voice of future customer. Sometimes it’s not voice, sometimes it’s other things that hint at a voice. Then of course things like developing your voice. You need to be aware of SEO. You need to be knee deep in direct response. If you’re not learning direct response copywriting as you grow as a copywriter today, you are going to miss out.

Your copy will not be as strong as if you go back to the really old school stuff and start zeroing in on what they were talking about back then. I’m talking about, yes, Gene Schwartz, but even further back, to

[inaudible 00:06:58]

. Just go back. Go back to the 20s, study that stuff. That’s where all the great clickbait comes from. You don’t have to use it for clickbait. Just because you know it can be used for evil doesn’t mean you use it for evil. But you do need to know about that stuff. So don’t just zero in on the copywriters who are talking today, but go way back.

Okay, then we’ve got message mining, we talk about that a lot when we’re doing VOC, but there’s other reasons to do message mining. Creative. Part of our job is creative still. You need to still be good at, need to have an ear for good creative. That means paying attention to ads that are more creative, and taglines, and the frameworks around that sort of messaging, so that you can better use everything else showing here to write copy that not only converts, but that gets that first customer to say yes. And that first customer for us is always our client. You have a client who needs to be sold on using the copy you’re recommending. So showing them the data, telling them where it comes from is great, but it’ll go a lot better if it sounds good, too. So knowing about creative advertising, that will help a lot. Being able to talk value propositions, so we did a book on value props for copywriters, but there’s so much more where that came from.

Copy formulas, messaging developments, being able to do audits. Being aware of what conversion rate optimization is, and everything inside of it, which is part data analysis, and audits, and everything else that we’re talking about as well. And then persuasion and human decision making, and that is why we talk about get a membership to [inaudible 00:08:47], sorry. It’s, that’s You’ll want to read what people are studying. What academics are studying about how people make decisions. There’s so much on how they make decisions on mobile, on how they make decisions in bricks and mortar stores, and how that converts over to the digital space. There’s so much that you need to be learning that all of this over to the left will feed you and make you a better conversion copywriting. So know that, screen shot that, keep it handy if you’re like, “I don’t know what to learn next.” Choose one of these, at least one of these, and then move on from there.

That then leads us to what the output is of conversion copywriting. You should be crafting an hypothesis when you develop something for your clients. People better understand if you have a research question or hypothesis that you’ve actually done the work. That’s more of making sure that we’re grounding ourselves in the science of conversion copywriting so everything doesn’t feel up in the air and guessed at. So what’s your hypothesis for that new landing page you wrote? What do you believe is the reason it’s going to convert better? If you’re like, “I hate hypothesis because chemistry, or whatever, sucked when I was in high school,” okay, but what’s your research question? If you’re not sure, just go ahead and Google how to craft a research question. Use that and ask that with your clients when you’re presenting your copy.

Conversion copywriting, all of the stuff on the left also makes you better able to talk about personalization, segmentation and helping your clients understand when it’s time to consider that. That we can’t always just go out of the gate with whether we think we heard that’s great from voice of customer research because we do have our own biases that get in the way there. So what can we do on different copy variations that you should be presenting, and segmentation and personalization within that? And then comes of course validation and iteration and all of the things that you need to do, creative direction to make sure that your copy is implemented appropriately. Not stepping back or just throwing it over at the designer and hoping that something great will come of that. Because they’re not copywriters. It’s your job to know this, and it’s your just and responsibility to stay involved as someone implements the work that you do. Then of course you need to be cool with experimentation and actually measuring results.

Okay, so this is, what you’re looking at here, is what you need to start thinking about when you’re thinking about conversion copywriting. It’s one part of the process. We talk about the process, copywriters talk about it a lot, and that’s good. It’s a very good starting point. Next comes actually really understanding what’s behind it. When you know this stuff, then you’re better able to charge more, to feel better about the work that you do. Julianna says it feels overwhelming. She chatted that just to the panelists, just to us, and it should feel overwhelming. It should feel like a big undertaking. And when you look at it, it should challenge you. Do you want to do this or don’t you?

Because if you don’t, you can make $20 an hour writing creative copy for somebody, and make 40K a year and hopefully that’s enough. Okay, fine. But if you want to go further and do more, if this is overwhelming but it challenges you in a good way, then this is what you need to start aiming for. You need to start knowing. Just choose one. Just go over to, put it in your calendar. Every month you’re going to read one new article from, pick a journal. You’re going to read one new article from it, and that’s it. By the end of the year, you’ll have read 12 articles written by academics on a thing that’s important to you, and you will be a better conversion copywriting because of it. It’ll make you stronger, and all the other things showing here, maybe not all of them. Probably won’t make you better at SEO, but it’ll make you better as a conversion copywriter.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. If you have to do all of this at once? Sure, that would be overwhelming. But you don’t. You just have to start chipping away at the things you don’t already know. Chipping away at, not doing it all at once.

Okay, that is it. Thanks, you all. Hopefully you are going to be able to use what we discussed today to talk to your clients with more confidence about not only your process, but everything that goes into being a conversion copywriter. Thanks for your awesome chats, thanks Carrie as well for taking care of chat and everything as we did this today. We will see you next week in our next tutorial. Tuesday, the one at the very end of July, is going to be canceled because I’ll be speaking in New York at that time, so I just can’t make it unfortunately. But next week we will be here and we will see you then. Okay? Thanks, guys, have a good one. Bye.

Speaker 2: It’s the 90s.

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