copywriting

I got to attend my first Conversion Conference in October of last year and I am pleased to have been invited to speak at this year’s San Francisco conference.

First of all, I learned a LOT at last year’s conference. And I study this stuff all day long.

I don’t pay to attend many conferences, but I think I’m pretty good at picking those that give me information I can use “on Monday.” Conversion Conference is definitely one of those. Just look at some of the agenda items:

Biggest Usability Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

The Science of Shopping Cart Abandonment (I will never look at cart abandonment the same)

Rapid Fire: Lessons Learned from 30,000 Conversion Tests (These kinds of presentations are gold)

Merging SEO & Usability to Drive Conversion (I say “YeSEO”)

Creating Killer Conversion Copy – Email, Landing Pages, PPC Ads and More (This is mine. Never bore your visitors again)

Getting Smart About Conversion on Mobile Devices (We’re all going to have to deal with mobile sooner or later)

 

Will the holiday card we chose convert “Bah Humbug” into the “Love Bug?” Follow along as we express our gratitude to you and show you why we chose the holiday card we did.

We hope we’ve been able to make 2011 a great year for you, since you’ve made it a great year for us here at Conversion Sciences.

Look for us in 2012 as we continue to educate, optimize and have fun doing it.

Brian

Groupon emails appeal to all of the buyer personalities.

Groupon emails appeal to all of the buyer personalities.

Whatever you think of deals site leader Groupon, you can’t argue with their amazing success.

Since 2007, Groupon has built an email list of 50 million subscribers and have kept them enraptured even though they send an email almost every single day.

Is it the deals? I would argue that it is not. Groupon: Is it the Deals or the Copy?

Find out how the layout and copy of their daily inbox offering keep people on their lists and reading day after day.

PPC Help: Improving your Landing Page | Trada

Sep 28, 2011 08:39 pm
I’ll say it again: If your SEM company isn’t INSISTING on helping you with landing pages; if they are satisfied to pick any page on your site as a destination for your expensive PPC marketing; then you are being taken to the cleaners.
Most of what you need to know is right here in this article. Contact me if you still have questions.
Tags: PPC help landing page landing pages
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How To Implement Rel=Author

Sep 28, 2011 10:36 am
Google+ is affecting search rankings for authors on the web, so we need to make sure we’re playing the game. This article from @AjKohn of tells us how to establish ourselves as the masters of our content in the eyes of Google using the “rel” attribute in our links.
Tags: google seo rel=author google+ author
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Fiber One Sparks Up Boomer Love With Cheech and Chong | ClickZ

Sep 26, 2011 05:35 pm
It is always tough to market to a specific target. Here Fiber One is clearly targeting boomers, and a particular brand of boomer. No doubt this will hurt their sales to conservative families. There will be some backlash. But, we all must be creating content for more and more specific markets, and walking away from the others if we’re going to grow our businesses. Hat tip to Fiber One: may your bravery be rewarded with sales and market share.
Tags: content targeting Boomer Fiber
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Language, context and conversions: thoughtful prose from the pros | SEO Copywriting

Sep 26, 2011 03:19 pm
“The Internet isn’t passive. When you search online, you plan to do something:  buy, learn, play, find.  As soon as you go to Google, Yahoo or Bing, you’re on the hunt.”
There are those among us who have a true command of words and their use. I marvel at them. It is a power that is critical to persuasion, conversion and selling. Gabriella Sannino clearly sees it as a power to help people solve their problems. What better brand experience can you deliver than to help someone find answers to their questions?
Tags: writing copy seo conversion
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Your images leave me baffled at best, distracted at worst.

Left on their own, what would these images tell you about the site they were found on?
iStock_000012057784XSmalliStock_000000481451XSmallPortrait of a female executive
Not much.
If you’re selling question-mark-shaped doll houses, orange couches or business apparel, these will work. The sites I found these images on are selling financial services, insurance and IT training, in that order.
You’ve seen these or something like them many many times. Your brain filters out images like this on a Web page.
In Identifying Images that don’t Convert: The Caption Test, I propose a simple test that will help you weed out images that are irrelevant to your visitors, and thus are less likely to help your conversion rates.
UPDATE: Check the comments for more images and captions submitted by my readers.
If you find this educational, you really should subscribe to The Conversion Scientist by email. There is much more coming.

bang head hereI believe so strongly in the power of targeted, focused landing pages, that I’m going to prepare you for the inevitable battles that will ensue. It is inevitable that forces of darkness will swoop down on you as you prepare a page designed for high conversion rates.
They are not cunning enemies, and this is why they are dangerous. You must get good at playing their game.
Here are some tactics for beating gatekeepers at their own game.

1. Data is only useful to confuse and disorient

You must come to terms with the fact that data will not sway your enemies. It can be used as a weapon.
I recommend printing out random graphs and hanging them around your office. Anyone who comes in to say that the company logo on the page is too small will be instantly dazzled.
When your enemy is trying to get you to add the corporate site navigation bar to your landing page, you can point to one of the graphs at random and simply shake your head.

2. Bureaucracy is Your Friend

Take a lesson from your IT department when it is suggested that the page needs some stock photography on it. Say, “That is a great idea. We’ll add that to the testing schedule right away!”
If they go over your head, you should invoke the “No changes without a test plan!” rule even if such a rule is not written anywhere.
I know it is despicable to use a valuable tool like testing as a delaying tactic. It is actually supposed to do the opposite. But, this is war.

3. Use the Competition to Counter Old Habits

If you’re competition is enlightened, they may be implementing things like landing pages and doing it well.
Not likely. However, you should do some searches for the keywords that are important to your business and see if you can find a competitor doing things right.
Then, when IT delivers a form with the standard “Submit” button, you can point to your competition and say, “They’re going to take our prospects if we don’t do it my way!”

4. Invent Your Own Budget

When you encounter pushback to creating unique landing pages for each channel and ad, invoke an imaginary budget. “We’re taking the extra cost from the Incremental Revenue Budget,” or “We’ll cover it with the Conversion Premium Budget.”
While these budgets don’t actually exist, we all know that higher conversion rates should result in more leads, more sales and more revenue. We’re just borrowing from the increased future value of our conversion genius.

5. Resist the Dark Side

It is important that you not become your enemy. There are “lies, damn lies and then there are analytics,” to paraphrase Mark Twain.
We know we can draw just about any conclusion we want from analytics to support any position we want, but we can’t do bad science.
For example, if our manager was adding corporate-speak to our crafted persuasive copy, it would be ingenuous to point out the bounce rates for the pages she’d edited in the past. It may not be her copy that did the damage.
Instead, invoke the “Great copy. We’ll add that to the test schedule right away!”
Fight hard, my friends, but don’t compromise the science.

We have a little fun with Copywriters in my newest Content Marketing Institute post, How to Find the Right Copywriter for your Landing Pages.
Pencil-pusherIf you could only hire one professional that would increase the number of people who buy or become a lead on your site, it would be a copywriter.
They can paint more detailed pictures than a photographer.
They can use more colorful language than a designer.
Communicate with humans and search engines.
If you’re going to dominate your competition online, it is because they write their copy themselves. I suggest you find a good direct response copywriter and let them do their work.
To help you get familiar with the kinds of copywriters you might meet in a dark alley, I’ve described five that I’ve run into on a regular basis.

  1. The Styrofoam Sandwich Writer

  2. The SEO Substituter

  3. The Frustrated Novelist

  4. The Soviet-era Propagandist

  5. The Persuader

Most copywriters you meet will be a combination of some of these.
Tell me about your favorite copywriter in the comments. Let us know what combination of the above he or she exhibits.
Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist teaches businesses of all sizes how to get more leads and sales from the traffic coming to their Web site.
Contact Brian Massey
 
Photo courtesy nkzs.

Tom had two sites targeting the same audience, and getting about the same traffic. Both had analytics installed. This was a rare opportunity to see how two very different approaches to website design affected online sales conversion out in the real world.

Read this before changing your website.

It’s time-consuming to offer 45 minutes of my time to anyone who wants to improve their online sales conversion rates. I just can’t think of any better way to introduce businesses to conversion concepts.

And the people I meet on the phone are priceless.

One such person is Tom Jackson of Heliski.com. His is a rare and instructive look at the power of the written word and the ineffectiveness of standard design strategies when it comes to conversion.

Tom had two sites targeting the same audience, and getting about the same traffic. Both had analytics installed.

According to him, one was “dated, awkward, wordy, but it’s working.” The other, he said, was “newer, looks better, better organized but WAY underperforming in lead gen.”

This was a rare opportunity to see how two very different approaches to website design performed out in the real world.

Which would you pick as the conversion winner?

Take a look at Tom’s two sites. Which would you pick as the hands-down winner? Which would you image would have cratered his income had he relied exclusively on it?

How analytics (and a session with the Conversion Scientist) saved one business's online sales.

How analytics (and a session with the Conversion Scientist) saved one business’s online sales.

I did a complete evaluation of these two pages in my Search Engine Land column, and you might be surprised at my conclusions: strong copy beat slick new design.

Two very different sites: one “dated, awkward, wordy;” the other “newer, looks better, better organized.” So why was the “dated, awkward, wordy” winning the conversion game so handily?

From a distance the two home pages couldn’t look more different. HeliskiingReview.com uses non-standard layout. Text is knockout white on blue, usually considered more difficult to read than Heliski.com’s black on grey.

The newer site uses a more “image- or brand-oriented play, establishing its value proposition as “the ultimate heliskiing destination.” Unfortunately, you can’t heliski on the site, so this is an empty promise.

The body copy couldn’t be more different in approach. HeliskiingReview.com uses plain language with specific, value- and benefit-oriented points in easy-to-scan bulleted format. Specifics are almost always important for conversion.

A designer might say that the big star with “send me info” was “too TV.” However, it certainly does draw the eye to an important call to action.

and the conversion champ is…

HeliskiingReview.com had a conversion rate of 2.27% vs. Heliski.com at 1.99%. That’s 14% better. However, HeliskiingReview.com delivered much more qualified prospects. Tom was able to book trips for 15.29% of the HeliskiingReview.com leads. Heliski.com had a close ratio of only 1.33%.

That’s 1146% more bookings and tens of thousands of dollars in sales.

What we can Learn from Tom (or How Analytics Saved One Business’s Online Sales)

The moral of the tale is that Tom measured his sites’ performance. He had the analytics in place, and was smart enough not to make changes to his site without being able to measure their effect. By leaving both sites up, he was able to rollback the changes.

Do you know how changes to your site affect your business? You should.

I’m offering a two hour short course on June 11 in Austin entitled Web Analytics: Tools and Best Practices. This is an Austin Entrepreneur Network short course, which means that it’s only $25. We love our entrepreneurs.

Join me and find out how you can avoid huge mistakes – mistakes that rob you of leads and steal your sales. This is the second time I’ve done this presentation.

Or you can book your own session!

Read my full report on Search Engine Land, and I hope to see you on June 11.

Persuade with passion. Engage with the unexpected.

His face was slightly ashen, and had clearly fallen since he first entered the conference room. I felt a lump in my stomach as he reviewed the revisions to the copy he’d written just a week earlier. I was a bit sick at being part of this, but it was… inevitable.

I marveled that he still held out any hope to begin with. The work before him was little more than a carcass of the original. Of course, he’d been in this position before.

Eager to bring some excitement to a new client’s Web site, he’d spent more time than he should have crafting a story for our business. His work communicated what the visitor needed to know, and did so using the tools of the persuasive writer.

eMarketing principles: words that convert.

Words that convert.

The heading invited the reader to read the first sentence, as it should. The work started with a story. It generated an emotion, if only a slight one. Details were held back so that the reader’s interest would mount.

Juicy words were chosen in favor of posing adjectives. Simile and metaphor were scattered here and there.

These are the tools that engage those parts of the brain that ask the reader to remember what they’re reading.

I’ve said it before. You can create more engaging images with paragraphs than with Photoshop.

The Tyranny of the Managing Amateur

What I delivered to this beleaguered writer was the internally edited version of his work.

It had been squeezed dry, like a lemon.

Those within the company that edited it down meant well. Sadly, they were not writers, but they had the privilege of position. The “rules” that they had heard in passing were to be the undoing of this prose:

“You only have 8 seconds to engage your reader,” and, “brevity is the soul of wit,” and “No one reads below ‘the fold.’”

Unfortunately, all of this is true. Ironically, it is only true for writing that is bereft of storytelling, diluted of color, and opaque with hyperbole.

Here are the quotes business marketers should be spouting:

“Web visitors will give you as much time as you have the talent to muster.”

“Brevity without wit is soulless.”

“You can entice anyone to scroll by entertaining or educating.”

I was young. I didn’t defend his work. I didn’t stand behind the very thing that was going to make this new website successful. I just didn’t know any better.

Can you recognize and defend writing that will set you apart from your competitors?

Can you identify copy that increases conversion rates? Do you have the knowledge to say “NO” to hack editors, though they may hold the key to your paycheck? Do you need some copywriting tips that deliver results? Or some copywriting hacks you wish you’d known sooner?

Playing it safe will keep you from getting hurt — and from getting customers

Fast Company columnist Sam Ford offers an insightful and entertaining treatise on how Corporations — and brands and small businesses – can take a page from the world of “professional” wresting.

In short, Ford follows his own advice with this column.

His assertions are well-suited to illustrating what it takes to communicate online; to communicate in a way that gets visitors to stick around and take action.

Pro wrestling marketing lessons.

Pro wrestling marketing lessons.

“An Appropriate Level of Spectacle Is Crucial”

The outrageous costumes, the drama, the crowd: all contribute to an air of excitement that inevitably makes you stop for a moment while channel surfing. This will also stop the visitor that is surfing the Web.

On your site, you need a hook to draw your visitor in. To assume that they are visiting because they know they want to learn about your company is naive. You’ve got to hook them first.

“Humor and Charisma Always Make a Connection”

It is especially true in the B2B world that humor and charisma seem to have no place. “After all, we’re all serious business people here.” If this is your attitude, kiss the customers goodbye.

“Create a Serialized Connection with Your Audience”

Conversion happens around great content. Great content happens more than once.

There are so many ways to send serial content – email, social media, news wires, blogs – that you should be frothing from the mouth to crank out the articles, posts, papers, audio and video to feed the monster. This monster poops business.

You can even serialize an article. For instance, there are 10 tweets in this post alone. Can you guess what they are?

“Shiny New Objects” Don’t Last

This is a corollary to the last item: Big ideas may carry the day, but what about the next day and the day after that?

Marketers need an editorial calendar for your communications. Get the budget and the resources to be a content machine.

“Your Audience Uses You as an Excuse to Build Community”

Facebook groups can work. LinkedIn groups can become vibrant. When this happens, it is because you have found a seed group of fans who love the product and the opportunity to associate themselves with it.

This doesn’t happen because of price discounts. It happens when you join the conversation.
Wrestlers throw each other into the crowd. What are you throwing in to your crowd?

“Your Audience Is Always Performing”

The other thing that works in Social Media is giving your “crowd” a stage on which to become a performer. Blogs offer comment sections, for example. Let them post, upload, rate, review and comment. Give them a stage.

Brian Massey

Photo courtesy Flickr