Copy is everywhere. It’s the text on your landing page, the content of your promotional emails, and the words on your introductory brochure. If you produce something with the goal of driving sales, the words you use are copy. It’s meant to draw in readers, and it’s how most businesses today talk to their customers.
And when it comes to reeling in users and converting them, it’s all about the copy. The following are 10 tips for making your copy more effective in driving conversions on your website.
1. Figure out who your audience is
Sales happen when you identify a need and meet it. Effective copy highlights that need and explains why the featured product or service is the best solution. First, though, you need to know who you’re addressing.
To determine who your audience is, try creating several user personas. This means doing some research, finding out what groups of people are using your product, and figuring out what they have in common. Consider some of the following characteristics and how they might apply to your hypothetical customers:
Job title and industry
Once you determine a few unifying traits among your audience members, you can then create several personas to target. For instance, say you run a company that specializes in high-end crocheted baby blankets and patterns. There are a variety of possible user personas for your products. One might be Daniel, a new millennial father looking for a high-quality blanket for his infant daughter; or Elise, a grandmother and crocheting enthusiast who wants to get her hands on a new pattern for making Christmas gifts.
For this product, it wouldn’t make sense to have a user persona like Roger, current student and president of his university’s Delta Chi chapter; or Lorraine, a stay-at-home mom focused on helping her teenage kids apply to college.
Although fictional, these personas represent your customers and help to humanize the people you’re trying to sell to. And knowing who your audience is makes targeting them easier—you’ll be able to write better copy that’s tailored to their needs and expectations.
2. Be conversational—use “you” and “your”
Which of these statements feels more personal to you?
When a contractor picks up a widget, he or she needs to trust that it won’t break. Acme Widgets stand up to hard use.
When you pick up a widget, you need to trust that it won’t break. Acme Widgets won’t let you down.
There is very little difference between the two, except that the second option speaks directly to the reader. And yet, it instantly evokes a closer connection. That’s the power of the second-person point of view—that is, writing “you” and “your.” Addressing your reader directly helps to close the distance between them and their computer screen.
For some inspiration, take a look at Rover, a pet care marketplace for dog and cat owners. To describe its available services, Rover could have simply listed its main offerings: dog boarding, house sitting, dog walking, and so on. However, it goes above and beyond to connect with its audience by including an additional line describing each service.
Image source: Rover
What exactly makes this effective? Just about everyone knows or can at least deduce what services like “dog boarding” and “dog walking” are, but these extra lines of copywriting add a personal touch. Perfect if you need overnight pet care and Whenever your dog needs a walk. By incorporating a second-person point of view, the emphasis is on you, the reader, and meeting you (and your animal’s) needs.
3. Include quantifiable facts
Imagine that you’re developing a new marketing strategy for your B2B company and you’re interviewing different content platforms. The two companies you’re looking at give you the following pitches. Which is more convincing?
Content marketing is an important investment in today’s market.
Content marketing costs up to 41% less than paid search. In addition, after three years, that piece of content will have generated over 300% more leads than paid search.
Chances are you’re much more likely to trust the second company with your business. Why? It includes very specific facts and figures. Facts are convincing because they’re verifiable and concrete. But be careful—you want them to be your support rather than your main message. Too many facts will make your copy sound dry.
4. Emphasize action
Conversion is action. If you want more people to buy, subscribe, or contact you for more information, don’t wait until the call to action to bring it up. Inject action verbs and phrases throughout your copy, particularly those that make the reader envision doing or achieving something.
That doesn’t mean simply describing the product or service in action terms, as in “This widget is the fastest on the market.” It means painting a picture of its use and how it impacts you, such as “With this speedy widget, you’ll produce 30% more doohickeys than the average company.”
Do you see how the second sentence’s use of the verb “produce” inspires action? Other similarly effective verbs include:
For an idea of how action words resonate more vividly with readers, take a look at SpaceX’s About page. Count how many active verbs it contains in its 31-word description.
Image source: SpaceX
Designs, manufactures, launches, revolutionize, enabling, and live—that’s nearly 20% of the text! Not only that, these verbs inspire more awe and admiration than if the copywriter had simply written, “SpaceX makes rockets with the goal of moving people to space.”
By communicating its mission so evocatively, it’s perhaps no surprise that SpaceX has raised over $2.25 billion in venture capital. More lively and active copywriting touches people and stirs them into action.
5. Be simple and concise
You have just seconds to convince a visitor on your website that you’re worth sticking around for—but you won’t accomplish that if your writing is overly long and complex. After all, most web users read 20% of a page’s content and that number tends to vary inversely with the amount of content on a web page. In other words: The more you write, the less people read.
Consider the difference between these two articles:
Images source: Popular Science and JAMA Psychiatry
On the left is an article from Popular Science, a quarterly magazine dedicated to sharing new developments in science and technology. It describes the findings of a study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, captured in the screenshot on the right. The two articles cover the same subject, but can you see the difference in length and complexity?
Granted, the two websites have different target audiences—one appeals to the general public and the other targets academics. However, that in itself should tell you how to write for mainstream audiences. Like Popular Science, use simple, straightforward language to communicate your point to readers and delete excess words that don’t enhance your message or add value for your readers.
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6. Write with SEO in mind
As technology advances and designers learn more about how people search, search engine algorithms shift and change their priorities. You used to be able to optimize a page just by using your target search term as much as possible, but those days are long gone. (Now it’s called keyword stuffing, and it’s a major no-no.)
Today, Google wants high-quality content that resonates with readers. To create content of this caliber that’s also optimized for search engines, you need to:
Determine what your customers are searching for. Then write copy that addresses those search terms. Solving users’ search queries is Google’s ultimate goal, meaning there’s no point in trying to be sneaky and create misleading content, e.g., writing blog posts about topic A and hiding advertorial content about topic B in them.
Naturally integrate keywords into your content. As mentioned earlier, trying to maximize the number of instances of your keyword through keyword stuffing will do more harm than good.
Write an enticing meta title and description to draw your users in. This information is what users see when browsing search engine page results. It’s ultimately what makes the difference between a reader clicking on your website versus your competitor’s.
Link internally to other relevant pages on your site. This will make it easier for users to explore your site further and thereby increase time on site.
Include social share buttons in your content. Doing so makes your content more shareable and can quickly translate into more visits and page views.
Take a look at what your competition is doing. What are they writing about? What words do they use? Use your rivals as a benchmark to make your content even better.
Note that these best practices are only a few guidelines; SEO is a whole industry that encompasses much more than a handful of bullet points. That said, these tips make a good starting point and guide for optimizing your website’s copywriting for more conversions.
7. Write compelling headlines
According to industry pioneer David Ogilvy, for every five people who read a headline, just one reads the body copy. Though a rather dismal statistic, this speaks to the importance of having strong headlines in order to entice readers to click.
With that in mind, you can make your headlines more effective by following these four tips:
Tell the reader what he or she will gain from the product, service, or article.
Include your target search term.
Tug at the reader’s emotions.
For example, check out the headlines on the website of media company Romper. Romper attracts its target audience, millennial moms, by crafting its headlines with these tips in mind.
Image source: Romper
For instance, “Why Children Love Orphaned Characters & Parents Hate Them” is far more vivid and specific than the headline alternative “Why People Have Different Opinions on Orphaned Characters.”
In a similar vein, “11 Responses For the Jerk Judging Your Picky Eater” tells readers exactly what to expect (11 responses) and evokes emotion (the “jerk”) along the way, connecting with any parent who has felt their child being judged.
8. Leverage social influence
Humans are social creatures. If another person recommends something to us, even if it’s a stranger writing a recommendation on the internet, we tend to trust that more than we would trust a traditional advertisement. In fact, feedback from others holds so much sway that 94% of online shoppers report avoiding a business if they’ve read a negative review about it.
Why does this matter? You can use social influence to your advantage in your copy, specifically by:
Adding customer reviews to your landing page
Creating a dedicated “customer testimonials” page
Adding new reviews on a regular basis
Including an occasional bad or mediocre review
Yes, that’s right—some negativity boosts your credibility.
According to social commerce group Reevoo, 30% of customers question the authenticity of customer responses when the only reviews they see are good. Meanwhile, 68% of readers trust reviews more when there are both good and bad scores.
9. Use a clear call to action (CTA)
All the customer testimonials in the world won’t mean anything if your readers can’t figure out what to do next. In other words, you need a clear call to action that outlines readers’ next steps.
Avoid using vague words like “next” or “continue” in your CTA because they don’t specify what a click will do. (Will readers end up subscribed to your newsletter? Will they get a free white paper in their email inbox? Does it mean they agree to buy something?)
Instead, try something more along the lines of:
Get Your Free Estimate
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Shop New Items Now
For an idea of what makes some CTAs more effective than others, check out the difference between Smile Direct Club and Invisalign’s approaches to explaining pricing for their clear dental aligners.
Image source: Smile Direct Club and Invisalign
Smile Direct Club’s CTA “Learn More” is straightforward and actionable, moving readers along the company’s marketing funnel seamlessly; Invisalign’s “More on cost and insurance” comes across weaker, especially given the absence of a verb.
To be clear, Invisalign’s CTA could be a lot worse. But while it still gets its point across to readers, it ultimately pales in comparison to Smile Direct Club’s CTA. Wording like “View Pricing Plans” or “Find Out More” would benefit Invisalign by providing a greater sense of action. It’s a call to action, after all!
10. Use psychology to motivate your readers
The study of psychology is all about why people do what they do, making it a marketer’s best friend. We know that peer influence explains why reviews are effective, but there are many more psychological processes that can help you boost conversions.
Scarcity and loss aversion
“Only 3 left!”
“Sale ends tonight!”
“Today Only—Free Shipping!”
There’s a reason why you see this kind of wording so often in sales copy. When people believe that a resource is limited or scarce, they feel driven to acquire it. A temporary offer stirs action by creating a sense of urgency, discouraging the reader from thinking that they can just “come back later.”
You can find examples of this on many retailer websites, such as fashion company Forever 21.
Image source: Forever 21
Copywriting like “Last Chance” as well as the fine print below indicates that the deal is available for only a limited amount of time. While visitors initially may not have had any intent to purchase, they’re now imbued with a sense of urgency and feel compelled to act lest they miss out.
Primacy and recency
Start with your most important information. That’s the primacy effect. But don’t discount the recency effect—the fact that readers tend to have the best retention of the most recently read information.
To take advantage of these tendencies, save your most convincing fact or argument for the beginning and end of your copy. This is most relevant when drafting listicle-style posts, such as Fitbit’s article “12 Not-So-Obvious Things to Know About Your Fitbit Tracker.”
Image source: Fitbit
The first feature listed is Fitbit trackers’ ability to create goals, and the last feature is the trackers’ ability to sync with other apps. We can’t say for sure that Fibit deliberately placed these two features at the beginning and end of its copy to capitalize on users’ psychological tendencies, but it’s not out of the question.
Some other features—like the ability to share pictures and compare results with friends—are included in the middle of the listicle, presumably because they’re more common across other fitness trackers. Meanwhile, placing the emphasis on Fitbit’s goal-setting function corresponds with its larger company mission to “help transform people’s lives,” and highlighting its compatibility with other apps helps to make Fitbit stand out from competitors.
Psychology suggests that users will most likely remember these two features out of the total 12 listed—can you see what would make them ideal for remembering? Fitbit’s content creators might have reasoned that these two features best demonstrate the tracker’s practicality and use in changing a customer’s lifestyle while also being easily incorporated into their existing suite of digital products.
Effective copywriting can increase your website’s traffic and ultimately boost conversions. Find out for yourself by using one, a few, or several of the tips mentioned in this article. But don’t try them all out at once; introduce a few at a time and gather data so you can learn what works best. Remember, copywriting isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it business—you’ll need to keep checking and adjusting so that you can identify what works best.
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