Your web and marketing copy should give your customers the information they need to make the right decision — one that makes them happy and results in more conversions for you. Everything you write should help answer the question “Why?” Why should the customer continue along the funnel to an eventual purchase? What’s in it for them?
So how do you write great copy that does this consistently? The good news is that there are tons of ways to improve your copy to drive greater impact with your audience and increase conversions. The bad news is that there are tons of ways to improve your copy…
Let’s cover a few strategies that will help you establish the discipline and mindset for crafting great copy – along with how, as always, testing is your friend. Whether you run your own ecommerce shop or you’re a consultant helping to maximize conversions for online retailers, the tips below will help you build trust and more effectively communicate the value of your products and services to your customers.
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1. Test your copy
Yes, yes, you need to actually write copy before you can test it. The tips that follow will give you a starting point on writing smarter copy, and we’ll get to them in a second. But before you dive in, remember that your copy is not immune to the necessity and rigor of A/B testing. In fact, copy is one of the most important and often most overlooked aspects of the user experience — one that flies under the radar for many ecommerce businesses when they’re thinking about testing and optimizing.
Now we’ve got that out of the way...
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2. Heed the power of emotion, part I: framing
Humans are emotional beings. As much as we like to think of ourselves as primarily rational, the reality is that we make decisions based on our emotions much more than we acknowledge or are even aware. There’s fascinating research showing that our emotions are in the driver’s seat for many of the decisions we make, even the kinds of decisions about which we tend to believe we’re rational. So using your copy to make the right kind of emotional connection with your visitors is the — yes — rational thing to do.
The first way to think about the power of emotion when it comes to copywriting is framing. Framing involves presenting the same information in different ways, paying heed to how emotions drive many of our reactions to what we see and read online. It’s all about creating context to encourage certain behaviors and discourage others. Framing, in general, happens on a number of scales — from your overall brand identity, to your website design, to the copy you use to communicate with potential customers. When it comes to using framing in your copy, here are two key strategies to think about:
- Using negative vs. positive framing: Saying your product is reliable 99% of the time, or that it has a failure rate of only 1%.
- Framing something in terms of potential loss or gain: “Buy our sweaters and be warm all winter!” or “Don’t buy our sweaters and be cold all winter!”
In a now-famous experiment, researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman found that when offered two treatment options for a hypothetical disease — one framed positively and the other negatively — human subjects overwhelmingly chose the positively framed one — even though the two options were in fact identical.
This may suggest that positively framed copy is the way to go all the time. But again, framing is about much more than just copy; it’s about overall context and expectations, and you simply won’t know how your readers will respond to a message that’s framed in a particular way unless you test it...
3. Heed the power of emotion, part II: trigger words
Another important consideration when it comes to the power of emotion is that particular words can have significant power — you can think of them as trigger words. Context — i.e., overall framing — is of course important, but a single word can conjure hope, fear, urgency, excitement, sadness, and just about any emotion under the sun. There are plenty of words that when employed carefully, can be pretty powerful triggers — even seemingly simple ones like “free,” “you,” “save,” and “new.”
“Negative” words, in particular, can have potent and sometimes unintended or unwanted effects on user behavior, even when they’re being used in an ostensibly “positive” context. As one example, ContentVerve’s Michael Lykke Aagaard tested the addition of a brief guarantee on a signup form that promised not to “spam” subscribers. The additional copy caused conversions to drop by 18 percent — a result Aagaard attributed to the anxiety that may have been provoked for readers by seeing the word “spam” — definitely not the intent of the copy!
4. Trim the fat
Quick quiz. Which of these two copy examples is likely to convert better?
In end-user response testing, 78 percent (nearly four out of five) of our users reported that they found the BenchWarmer Seat Heat Enhancer™ to far exceed their initial expectations in terms of product quality.
The BenchWarmer Seat Heat Enhancer™ far exceeded product quality expectations among nearly four out of five users.
The answer: Trick question. You need to test it.
But generally speaking, Example 1 is just, well, not that great. The second example tells the same story in half the words. As an overall strategy, it’s smart to see what you can lose from your copy and still retain the core message or story.
That said, people won’t necessarily shy away from longer copy, but only if it’s well written, and a big part of writing well is eliminating unnecessary verbiage. Think about aiming for brevity on a smaller scale — in your phrases and sentences — to create copy that can succeed on a larger scale, like an entire landing page. The less fluff your readers need to sift through at the sentence level, the more invigorated they’ll likely be to read more.
5. Be consistent throughout the funnel
Great web copy should lead your customers on a journey that ends with conversion. A user may enter the funnel at multiple points, but they all lead to the same place. And along all of these “threads” through the funnel, consistency is key. Messaging in one part of a thread that doesn’t line up with copy elsewhere in the thread — or worse, contradicts or tells a completely different story — is going to stop a potential customer in their tracks.
For instance, if you’re using PPC ads to drive visitors to a landing page, make sure the language and framing you use on the landing page is consistent with what’s in the ad. If it’s not, the user may become confused, or worse, wonder if they even ended up on the right page. If your PPC ad makes a claim like “The most comfortable socks you’ve ever worn!” but your landing page copy ignores the “comfort” aspect and only talks about your awesome 3-for-1 deal on those socks, you’ve created a disconnect that’s going to compromise the reader’s trust. Remember that every piece of copy sets expectations and makes promises, and you need to follow through on those expectations and promises, however subtle they may be.
6. Talk to your customers to learn their language and logic
It may sound basic, but you can learn a ton just by interacting with your customers. Talk to them on social media and via your support channels — heck, you should be doing this already! Learn more about their needs and pain points by querying them, either through a quick, three-second survey on your site, or via a longer email survey with a small incentive attached. (A thoughtfully chosen incentive will boost response rates, and if the survey is well-designed, will be well worth the investment.)
Engaging with your customers in these ways gives you valuable information in two respects. For one, it lets you know how they think about, and what they want from, your products and services; you can think of this as their emotional logic. And second, it tells you something about the actual language they use to relate to your business and its products and services. Getting smart about the specific language and particular emotional logic of your customers gives you insight into how to better communicate the benefits of your offerings and craft web copy that will resonate and convert.
Looking for more tips on writing great copy? Check out these other great resources:
- Are These 6 Copywriting Mistakes Costing You Sales?
- The Downton Abbey Guide to Irresistable Narrative Marketing
- 10 Ways to Write Damn Good Copy
- What Makes Good Copywriting? 6 Characteristics of Top-Notch Copy
- Why Marketers Should Write Ecommerce Copy That Taps into These 4 Proven Facets of Desire