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  • Dave

    It seems crazy to be the first to comment on a post that’s nearly six years old. I’m only sorry I didn’t discover this wisdom before now. As a B2B copywriter who writes a lot of web copy, I really like your approach. I especially love your suggestion to not claim in your website copy that you’re a leader or that you’re innovative. I work with a lot of technology companies, and this is often a battle. If only people could see how much this language makes them all sound alike. I also love your idea to hold off on design until you have the key elements of copy more or less established. Well done. I’ve been enjoying your blog for more than a year. Looks like I need to dig deeper into the archive to discover some of the good stuff I’ve overlooked. Thanks.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Dave, it’s never too late to comment! I added this to the mini-course because it is evergreen. Things haven’t changed much in 6 years, unfortunately.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  • cathy

    Dead link.. would love to see : Give them a set of personas if you can.

  • Kate

    I would love to take this approach the next time I manage a site build. My concern is that most designers will want to do things their own way and might not be very compliant with the idea of using someone else’s creativity to form their own, if that makes sense. Have you ever run into this issue using this method? All other things considered, this sounds awesome. I have an amazing copywriter who would produce great inspiration for design choices. As it is, his copy speaks so much more boldly than the designs I have to put it on, and it’s sometimes an awkward combination.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Kate, in practice this approach does offer some challenges. It’s easy to do a visual differential of three concepts laid out in front of you. It is more difficult to do so with written copy. Some lessons learned:

      1. Keep the comp copy short, like a headline and paragraph or headline and some bullet points.
      2. Don’t let your copywriter write the same concept three ways. The goal here is to get real choices
      3. Don’t forget the images. Copy should include image concepts. A designer’s job is to present the ideas, like a draftsman.

      I hope you’ll let me know if you have a different experience with this process.


  • JustinZA

    Great article, thanks Brian.

    “You want to choose the writer who feels that you’ve just opened the door their a cage of mediocrity.”

    There seems to be a grammar error here somewhere.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Fixed! Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Matt Hammond

    Just getting into the course, but coming from an Developer/SEO background, would like to know whether you consider keyword researching defining your body content?

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      If the keyword research helps you get into the mind of your visitors, it’s a perfectly valid way to shape your copy. If it’s the only thing you use to guide your copy, then your visitors are going to bounce. They don’t want to be manipulated, they want to be understood.

  • millernw

    My big question is, “where do we find good copywriters?!” – how do you find people you like, and trust?

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      This is the million dollar question. Our copywriters are referred by others who measure their websites. They often get busy if they are good. The questions we ask are these:

      1. What is your uncovery process? It should include talking to your sales and customer service people, reading all ratings and reviews, interviews with customers, and reading chat transcripts.
      2. What high-performing copy have you written? If they can’t identify which of their projects resulted in more revenue or leads, they probably aren’t right.
      3. How do you evaluate your projects? They should be able to talk about conversion rates and bounce rates. For email projects, they should focus on both click-through rate and conversion rate. They should know what a landing page is.

      Then, you have to trust them. Don’t rewrite. Only correct mistakes.

      I hope this helps.

      • millernw

        It does help give me a framework for evaluating quality. Thanks!
        I’m working to start a consultancy which helps businesses get past their horrible web presence (probably focusing on clients who have ugly/ineffective “brochure sites” as your book puts it) and having a short list of brilliant copywriters is a must! I’d like to get a plan put together for my clients, then hand their info off to talented writers and artists to carry out the tasks. Do you have a recommendation as to where I should start looking for good writers?

  • http://thejakejordan.com/ baldjake

    Great approach Brian!

    Do you still approach copy this way? Is this something you do in the CRO process as well? Enjoyed chatting this week at the ConversionXL conference, thanks!

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      We don’t write copy for our clients, but I did use this approach when revising our website at conversionsciences.com. We also use this approach to extremes when writing headlines. We will write 10 or 20 headlines to come up with good CRO candidates for testing.

      Unfortunately, no copywriters have stepped up publicly to say they’ve tried this approach. Perhaps it requires too much work up front. Perhaps it is too risky. Perhaps the best copywriters don’t really need to do this. Those writers who have been traumatized by their clients should see this as a way to break out of their mold.

  • Mia Sherwood Landau

    Writing copy is part science, part art. And the real alchemy happens in the mind of the reader. We want to create our own mental pictures from our own understanding. That’s what makes sense to us, and we like things to make sense. Writing copy requires me to appreciate the reader’s own power of creativity, instead of being overly fond of my own.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Now that is inspiring. Thanks.

  • Marcus Krieg

    Wow, great post. I just discovered your blog yesterday and I really like how you gamified the new subscriber process. Very clever. Also, this is a great post for anyone looking to build or redesign their website. Everyone always starts with design and tries to make the copy fit. I appreciate sharing a wiser approach.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Thanks, Marcus. It turns out to be a hard direction for writers to take. It’s different and requires a confidence that many writers don’t have. But we need confident writers badly!

  • Ron Sherbert

    Hi Brian, great stuff, what happens if you are just starting out and are bootstrapping and are short on money?

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      If you are bootstrapping and just starting out, you have to get the most for every hour you work. You need to charge a lot for each hour you work. This means that you have to get really good at building value. Be expensive, and if you’re not closing clients, then you need to do more research into building value.

      Writers who understand analytics, measurement and testing command higher rates. You might as well start up the learning curve with your site.

      • Ron Sherbert

        Thank you Brian. Do you work with agencies? I’m just starting out and the most important thing for me is I know my clients are getting great value. If that means subcontracting work out and having someone else get paid, that is fine. I want to learn to be the best I can be, that way when I do work for someone I know in my heart they are getting great value.

        • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

          Ron, we have had great success working with agencies like yours. There is room for all of us in the website optimization marketplace.

  • http://webdirexion.com/ Scott Frangos

    Good article. Enjoying the course, Brian. I love the advise to throw out “business speak”. What is interesting to me is that each generation the same principles must be taught. 30 years ago, at the first agency I worked for, the owner used to tell us “let the designer’s design.” I believe you are suggesting only one design be worked up — what would be interesting is an experiment with the two final version of copy given to two different designers… then testing one against the other.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Great insight. I think I’m espousing “Let the copywriters write.”

      The approach you’re talking about changes too much, in my opinion. We’ll always wonder why the winner won. Was it the design or the copy?

  • PJ Christie

    This is great timing for me. I have been wanting to re-think my site for awhile, but every designer I have is just not getting it. I’ve also been thinking through the pivot in my business model. So I copied all my content and brutally going through it in paper and pencil to get it to focus. I do it to my customers, but I don’t do it to myself. This is fun stuff.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      Thanks, PJ. It’s always hard to read the label from inside the bottle, as the Eisenberg brothers are fond of saying.

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