How to Optimize Your Button Copy

Presented live on Tuesday, June 9, 2020

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Do you optimize your button copy?

Some people call it microcopy, but there’s nothing micro about the copy for the site of conversion.

Here’s the thing: You cannot convert online without clicking one or more buttons.

So even though your button copy is only a few words, you have to choose those words intentionally.

That means understanding the difference between a call to action and a call to value. And knowing when and where to use them.

This tutorial will show you everything to consider before you write your button copy and most importantly, how to give button copy the mad respect it deserves!


What to Expect in This Tutorial [00:00]

Joanna Wiebe: Button copy. Now I know people give button copy a lot of like, people are not very nice of a button copy, if we’re being honest. It’s a last thought. People call it microcopy, which makes me crazy because there’s nothing micro about the copy for the site of conversion. You cannot convert online without clicking one or more buttons. 

Real Life Examples of Button Copy [00:30]

All right. Let’s start by just looking at examples of buttons in real life. Again I go out, I grab random examples, usually from the page I’m on, or was on before I started putting together the tutorial. 

Example #1 [00:47]

So we have got this. Now if your screen’s tiny, I apologize, but hopefully you can see. Now what do you think will happen next, when you click ‘get started’ on a landing page for box? What’s probably going to happen next when you click that?

Do you know what will happen next? You have any idea? What happens after ‘I get started’? What do I expect to see on the next screen? Do we know? And this is the kind of thing that we need to think about when we’re writing copy. 

Button copy is this really unique copy, that is both user experience copy and conversion copy. And they have to work together. 

But we’re typically not clear on how they can work together, or how they work together best. I see ‘get started’ and most of us just throw that kind of CTA on the page. Just ‘get started’. It’s fine. It has the word ‘get,’ we’re good to go. And I’m not saying it’s a problem… all. I’m saying we have to choose those words intentionally. 

So some people are like when you click ‘get started’, you’ll probably go to a sign up page to create an account. Okay. Juan says, “Not clear.” Scott says, “You start – question mark.” Um, yeah. Do we know? Are we okay with our user on this page? And this happens to be a paid ad landing page. This is for search engine marketing. 

You bring somebody there. You drop them on a page after paying for them to click through. And the primary CTA they see in the sticky bar at the top, at least, is ‘get started’. Did we do a good job as copywriters, in getting that there? Okay, I don’t know. I don’t know. But we have to think about this stuff.

What will happen next? You get to the bottom of that page and you see these two CTA’s, ‘ready to get started?’ We’re not talking about the copy around it, we’re just focusing on the CTA language itself. ‘Try now’ or ‘contact us’.

Is ‘try now’ the same as ‘get started’? Do we know? Are we about to dive right into the product? And do I want to? Am I ready to try it now? And if I’m not ready to try it now, and it’s between try now and contact us, what am I likely to do? Anything?

Will I contact you, because I didn’t know how to ‘try now,’ or wasn’t ready to ‘try now’? Does that mean I’m ready to contact you, though? So this is also another moment where we have to ask more critical questions of what we’re doing on a page. What’s the purpose? What’s the goal of the CTA that we’re writing? Is it the right one?

Example #2 [3:23]

Another one here, WeTransfer. This is the homepage for WeTransfer. Welcome to WeTransfer simple file sharing no registration. It’s free to continue. Please read our terms of service. I agree.

What do we think will happen now? 

Once I agree, then what happens? Now I’m welcomed? Now I’m in? Am I using it? Is that what I want to do? Will I be more likely to go click up and some of these other CTAs, up at the top in that like pseudo global nav?

It’s a tricky thing. And it’s a very important question for user experience or UX copywriting and for conversion copywriting. Are we putting the button copy on the page that is likely to get someone to feel very good about making the quick decision to click the button? 

Sometimes people will click buttons very, very easily. Other times, the people we want to click the button are a little more skeptical and they look at it, and they don’t know what’s next. The way that I like to think about a button is, I like to think about it as a door. So someone’s in a room, the room is your web page. Okay, that’s the room. There’s a door in that room.

Which means to get to the next room, they have to open that door. Is the door optimized to get me to want to open it with confidence? Doors can be scary. We don’t know what’s on the other side of the door. I don’t know what’s on the other side of a button. I have to hope you’re not going to mess with me. But more often than not, the copy that we’re putting on buttons, introduces sometimes, unnecessary friction, sometimes intentional friction, so that we only get the right people clicking through. 

It can just be a very tricky thing. So I want everybody to give it, to give button copy, the respect it deserves. Because we don’t just want to, our one question, we don’t have one question of a button. Our only question is not, what do you think will happen next? It’s also getting into why would I want to click this? Am I ready to click this? If I click this, will I feel ready when I land on the next page for what’s there? There’s so many questions that we have to answer. 

Ask Yourself This [05:30]

Okay. So if. So the question here is, is your button copy setting your prospect up for what they want to do, or is it just focused on what’s about to happen? So a call to action is typically a call to the action that you think the person will take. And we think with our user experience hats on far too much when it comes to writing button copy. 

Here’s the exact action that they want to take, or that that they’re actually going to be taking, so not necessarily what they want to take. So ‘get started’ is kind of empty, but it’s an action. You’re actually going to get started now. Am I ready to? Do I want to? Am I ready for that? ‘Try it free’. Am I ready for that? Just because you put the word ‘free’ in there, does not mean I’m ready to move forward with it. So we have to ask that question. 

Call To Action vs Call to Value [06:15]

And that brings us to call to action versus call to value. 

Call to Value [06:20]

So calls to value set up the value of an act. So we we back up from the action and we think about it as copywriters and this typically happens more top of funnel. So once you’re closer to the point of conversion, you’ll think in terms of calls to value. And by conversion, in this case, I mean actual paid. Paid, so you’ll think in terms of calls to value. 

When you get to, my brain is a foggy mess, when you get to the bottom of the funnel, that’s where calls to action kick in. Where you need to be very clear, you need to be thinking like a user experience copywriter. When you’re further up funnel, that’s where calls to value are in play. 

What is the benefit? What’s the goal? What’s the great thing I’m going to get once I click through? What can you say to make it less scary for me to open this door and go to the next part of the building that you want me to move through.

So you want to use calls to value throughout your website up until the point of like true purchasing action. Where a person needs to know, am I entering my credit card or is this the last step that I have? Have I finally ordered? Like the real user experience questions that happen, where you want to make sure all marketing and sales have moved away.

The sales is made, let user experience take over. But we have to make sure that the sale is made by that time. We want to write calls to value to complete the phrase I want to. So I want to, then whatever follows that. So I want to ‘get started’ could be a call to value. It’s just isn’t an optimized call to value. ‘I want to try for free,’ could be a call to value, it just isn’t what I’m actually thinking. 

And then we want to surround these of course with click triggers and emphasize value and show the safety of moving forward and what to expect next. So that’s a call to value. Basically you can fill it in –  I want to blank. And that’s almost always going to be a call to value. If you’re using the actual thing that they want, not the thing that they’re going to technically do.

Okay, and then. Examples include things like, ‘show me how,’ ‘customize my palette,’ or ‘get my free inspection.’ ‘I want to,’ does not have ‘show me how,’ complete the phrase, but we’ll talk more about that. 

I want to customize my palette, if you’re selling something to do with color choices and things like that. I want to get my free inspection. Yeah, I would like a free inspection. I don’t want to get started, I want to get my free inspection.

Call to Action [08:39]

Now calls to action, on the other hand, set up the action to take. So we want to use quick triggers in that case to make taking the action feel safe. There’s an action to take here. It is typically more user experience focused. The closer you are to the point of getting a credit card, of booking a consult, the more action focused our button copy should be. So, we lean away from calls to value when we get closer to the point of the person saying that final yes, I’m in.

And examples here of course include things like, ‘buy now,’ ‘add to cart,’ ‘complete booking,’ ‘complete purchase.’ The real thing where I know, okay it’s in my cart now? Good. Complete booking? I’m about to finish booking this holiday, awesome. Complete purchase? I’m about to finish this etc etc. So I actually know my credit card will be charged. The thing that I am exchanging is clearly set up. 

Always Intentionally Write Button Copy [09:31]

Okay. So we want to always intentionally write button copy. No one, of course, I’ve said this a million times, but I’m such a fan of optimizing buttons. You can learn so many split tests, that are just button copy split tests and see incredible results. People love to give buttons a hard time and act like they’re no big deal. They are the big deal. Okay? So, don’t treat button copy like an afterthought

Example #4 [09:58]

So we look at something like this. So this is from Drift’s pricing page, where we have a lot of CTAs on here. And as you get deeper into conversion copywriting, if you’re not already deeper into it, and work with more clients. Or if you decide to go in-house or you’re already in-house and you work with a testing organization, or you want to, pricing tables will be a very big opportunity for you as a conversion copywriter and getting results up. 

You can make very minor changes with pricing tables and see very ginormous results. And so the button copy in there is also a very important thing to think about. So when we look at this, do look and go through, a huge part of becoming great as a conversion copywriter or a copywriter in general, is just to be observant. When you go to a site, and this is why people have, why copywriters have such great swipe files. They’re like, Oh, I love that. Or, oh that was weird. And we observe and we capture it for later.

When you go to a pricing table and you see something like this. What’s actually going on here? It’s worth pausing and observing what’s going on here. We’re not going to talk in great detail about pricing, the type of table itself because that’s not what this is about. We are going to look at the CTAs and what are they doing with the CTAs? You can just buy standard outright and for all of these more expensive solutions, you have to ‘chat with us.’

There’s a free option where you can sign up free and for less than 10 employees, there’s ‘learn more.’ Now, what’s going on in here? And it doesn’t mean that this was intentional. But, what is going on in here? When you look at this, which feels like the easiest button to click? 

Which is the one that leaves the least effort, or uses the fewest scary words? So if you know, you think about what a scary word is, I’m not going to say, I’m going to see if anybody has any ideas. So, ‘learn more,’ Rory says, ‘learn more.’ ‘Learn more’ is really common language in a button, so it can be white noise, a little bit there, but that might be true. ‘Sign up free.’ A bunch of ‘sign up frees,’ ‘chat with us,’ ‘buy standard.’

Okay, in my opinion, as a long time conversion copywriter, ‘chat with us’ is the most optimized button here. There’s almost nothing on the line for me. I can chat with you and you might not even be a real person on the other end.

Buying is a scary word. Buy, as a conversion copywriter, strike buy from your language, wherever possible. Buy is a scary word, so we don’t often talk about de-optimizing buttons, but this is de-optimizing buttons, in my opinion. Adding ‘buy standard,’ ‘sign up free,’ no one likes the work of signing up. They might like free, so it’s more optimized there, but no one likes the work of signing up. And learning, no one likes that work either. 

If you were to look at these. At all of your options, you have six options here, you could start eliminating some of those. I don’t want to sign up free yet. I’m not ready to sign up free yet.

I don’t know that I need to learn more. Why can’t I just chat with somebody about this and then see if they’ll let me or they’ll help me get to a place where I choose? 

So, ‘chat with us’ continues, for me, to be the button with the least amount of work. The button that makes it really easy for me to say a micro yes. You’re micro yes is just, okay, I’ll chat with you. Buying is setting up a much bigger yes. Signing up free is setting up a much bigger yes. ‘Learn more’ is a smaller yes, but it’s not as small as ‘chat with us.’ So, we need to think intentionally about this stuff.

Be Aware of the Idea of Work [13:38]

Being aware, of course, of even the tiniest idea of work, even a little, a little extra pinch of work, will reduce your conversion rate on a button. Buying is a scary word, signing up is a scary word, learning is a scary word, chat is not a scary word. So think about that when you are writing buttons. 

Lemme Test You [14:01]

Okay. Now when it comes down to calls to value versus calls to action. I want to know from you, if you believe something is a call to value or a call to action. 

Okay. ‘I want to start a company.’ Now, there is the surface level of a call to value versus a call to action, but keep in mind, that a call to value is unlikely to feel like work. An optimized call to value is unlikely to feel like work.

So although this does complete the phrase, ‘I want to.’ It’s one of those, there’s so much work implied in it. I want to start a company? Holy shit! That’s a lot of work in there! How do I start a company? I’m not ‘ready to start?’ What do I, what’s next? What’s after I click this? Am I taken to a lawyer’s site where I become an LLC? What happened? What?

I don’t know what’s on the other side of this. I don’t want to start a company. Do you know how motivated I would have to be to start a company? To click this? So, if you were trying to reduce the number of clicks and increase quality clicks, you could put something like this in play. But this is not an optimized call to value.

Far better would be, ‘I want to be my own boss.’ And that’s what we’re working on as conversion copywriters. What’s the real thing that they want? You don’t have to just put an action into a button. People, and we’ve seen this test, after test, after test. ‘Be my own boss,’ something that is more like, oh yeah, I want that. That sounds good. That sounds even better. 

And any friction that might be in the way is far less important to me than the fact that I could have this really desirable thing. So be a copywriter with your button copy. 

Let’s try another. ‘I want to donate now.’ It’s completing the phrase, ‘I want to.’ It should match, it should be a call to value, right? Eric says, “action.” Marika says, “CTA.” Rory says, “CTA.” People are like, stop quizzing me! Scott says, “CTA.” Action. I agree. It’s a call to action.

Yes, it’s a call to action, but it’s also kind of right and wrong. Right, so it can be a call to value if you actually do want to do a donation, and that donation is easy. ‘Complete donation’ is going to be more of a call to action.

‘I want to help easily,’ is going to be more of a call to value. That’s something that feels more, and this is what everybody was already. Saying, right, that one was more of a call to action, a little bit on the line.

‘I want to help easily,’ feels like okay, that’s actually what I want to do. I don’t want to donate. If I’m completing a purchase, then ‘donate now’ is a great call to action to use. If I’m further up in funnel and I want to, not donate, but I want to help easily. Great. That’s a call to value and we can do that all day long. 

One last test. I want to ‘see all your options.’ This is a bit of a trick. I’m playing a little trick on you. What’s going on with this? It is still a call to action. Still, but if we can improve it by saying, ‘I want to see all my options,’ so that’s actually completing the phrase.

That’s what we’re doing as conversion copywriters and it’s true. ‘All your options’ does sound like a lot, right? Seeing all of my options. What about seeing my top option? See the number one most popular option? And then people immediately are like, wait, that’s way too long, as a button! ‘See the number one most popular option’ actually, it’s long, but it could be a button that’s worth clicking because that’s actually what I want. 

De-Optimize a Button? [17:42]

Okay, so that’s it for our talk on calls to action versus calls to value. It’s an introduction to this.

What I really want you to take away is that when you’re top of funnel, try to think in terms of I want to. Where the thing that follows, ‘I want to,’ is the button copy and it actually speaks to what they want. Not the action they’re going to take, slightly tweaked to make it sound like you’re thinking of what they want, but what they actually want. 

When they’re further down funnel, that’s a call to action. We want to be really clear. We want to write like UX copywriters at that point. And never forget, that you can also do-optimize a button. So we saw that on the Drift pricing page. There are buttons on there that are not trying to get clicked. 

You don’t always want people to just take whatever action feels right for them in that moment. Like, yeah, I think I’ll just start free and then see what happens. That’s a UX copywriter thing where you’re like, Well, no, they can decide for themselves. We just want to make it really easy for them to acquire the target and all that other kind of stuff.

But for us, as conversion copywriters, we have to think as user experience copywriters while also getting that conversion. What is the thing you want them to click on? Optimize that. If you have other CTAs around that, de-optimize that. Use scary words in the de-optimized button like, ‘learn more,’ ‘start a company.’ Things like that, that are just far scarier. 

Thanks, everybody. Thanks for showing up, spending your 30 minutes with me. I hope that you are starting to identify the differences between when you need a call to value, when you need a call to action, and how to make the call to value an even stronger call to value. So you get more people to click and say, yes, which is our job as conversion copywriters. One of many jobs that we have. Thank you. We’ll see you next week. We’ve got Nikki in for a special session next Tuesday. Ange, thank you as well for your help. Have a good rest of your week guys stay safe. Bye.

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