Copywriting for Conversion (Part 1/3) | CRO Training by JMarketing

by Joshua Strawczynski

Don’t underestimate the power of copy! Words sell and are even more crucial than images when the success or failure of conversions are concerned. Words inform and entertain, but more importantly, words sell.

The purpose of conversion rate optimization (CRO) is to understand the customer and using this understanding to create an environment that entices customers to convert — to buy, use, sign up, etc. Writing excellent copy for conversion is part of the best conversion rate optimization strategies.

Copywriting is a very specialized skill, with many professional copywriters specializing in a particular field, such as writing for conversion. A top conversion rate optimization agency will employ at least one such expert to write highly optimized, high-converting copy. However, by following certain principles, and with practice, you too can write copy that converts.

In this three-part module in the Fundamentals course on Conversion Rate Optimization, we will focus on copywriting for conversions. We will cover topics like what conversion copywriting is, how to write value propositions, and how creating (and writing) an excellent value proposition can give your conversion rate a giant boost. We will look at what microcopy is, how to spot bad writing, and how to improve it, and also when to use video and how to write compelling copy for it.

In Part 1, we will explore what forms the fundamentals of copywriting specifically for conversions, as well as the microcopy that supports it.

Copywriting for Conversion – PART 1:

How to write great copy

Writing is a skill, and there’s a reason why professional copywriters exist. They are experts who know how to craft engaging copy to virtually any audience, selling virtually anything. However, as most copywriters will tell you, having a knack for writing helps, but it’s a skill that can be learned.

Writing great copy is about more than just a ‘feel’ for writing, it’s also about following a set of principles that guide you along the process — a checklist to help you get the most out of the copy.

purpose of conversion rate optimization
A classic print ad – Engaging copy, perfect tone that speaks directly to the target audience.

At their most basic, these principles include:

  1. Research
  2. Structure
  3. Create a draft
  4. Revision, Feedback & Edit
  5. Test the copy

Let’s get into the details:

1. Research

Arguably the most important part of copywriting is research. You need to understand exactly what you’re selling, who your customers are, and how to sell this particular product or service to them. Most products sell better with some kind of emotional appeal, but it’s not always the case. For instance, if you’re selling conveyor belts to mines, fit’s all about tech specs and saving money — how it’s going to make you feel is less important.

It’s also extremely important to research your competition. What are they doing, and is it successful? If ‘yes’, what about their marketing or advertising makes it successful, and how can you make it better. Even if their advertising isn’t successful, take note of why, so you don’t make the same mistakes.

For tips on doing research well, check out our in-depth article on conversion copywriting, here.

2. Structure

One of the techniques used by all professional copywriters is first creating a structure of what needs to be communicated, then building the copy around that. Usually, this doesn’t take long, but since this is the backbone of your writing, don’t rush it. Use the results of your research as a guide.

This is true for all the pages on your website, including the home page, product pages, contact information page, and even the cart and checkout pages, but especially landing pages. Each page type’s structure looks different and will have a different main focus point, with some overlap.

For instance, on home pages, the most important part is the headline and value proposition, while product pages focus on information about the products and calls-to-action.

3. Create a draft

Even the most celebrated, award-winning copywriters’ copy isn’t perfect the first time around, however, you should write it as if it is.

Writing a draft lets you fill in the blanks around your structure, then determine which information is the most relevant. During this phase, you have to ask important questions, including:

  • Does the copy speak to the correct audience?
  • How much information do they need?
  • Are you being specific enough?
  • Is the value proposition being communicated?
  • Is your copy persuasive (enough)?
  • Do you use simple language or a lot of jargon?
  • Can all the information on one page, or must they click through to another
  • Should you display the price? Regardless of the answer, where does it need to be displayed?

4. Revision, feedback & edit

When you’re done writing the draft, take a step away from the copy for a bit, take a break so you can come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Even better, let someone else (the more, the better) look at the copy to spot things you might have overlooked. When you write, you can often get so ‘in it’, that your brain knows so well what the copy is supposed, that you don’t realize that you’re not actually writing it.

Things like missing information, inconsistencies, lack of flow, and structure of the copy are all things a fresh pair (or pairs) of eyes can potentially pick up. With this feedback in hand, you can edit the copy to make it better.

Re-do this process as many times as you feel is necessary — most professional writing work goes through (at least) two rounds of revisions to ensure it’s perfect. Note that revision is not the same as testing.

5. Test the copy

Your copy is ‘perfect’, it’s published, now it’s time to see how it performs in the real world. This is important because no matter how much research you did or how perfect you think your copy is, how people perceive it is what matters most. One of the best ways to test the effectiveness of copy is via split testing or A/B testing. Have a look at our guide [insert link] on easy split testing for more info about how to do it easily and well.

UX writing & microcopy

In the world of the web, there are two main categories of writing, copywriting and UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) writing. Copywriting is concerned with sales and marketing messages. Anything that entices the user to want to take the next step towards conversion, is copywriting.

UX writing, on the other hand, is instructional copy. Its purpose is to make the user understand what’s happening and how to interact with whatever they see on the screen. It includes things like menu labels and buttons, terms and conditions, and security notes.

Microcopy is part of UX writing, it’s the small bits of text that explain forms, gives hints on how to proceed in the e-commerce, and error messages such as when you’ve missed a field in a form, or haven’t filled out your credit card details correctly.

conversion rate optimization strategies
Hulu – Microcopy on mobile page.

The goals of microcopy:

  • It gives instruction and direction
  • It smooths the conversion process by reassuring users that they’re on the right track
  • It provides clarity on things forms
  • It answers contextual questions (not to be confused with FAQs)

As with almost all copy, there are things to keep in mind when writing microcopy:

  • Don’t use jargon, abbreviations like “specs” or acronyms (unless you are 100% certain that they are universally known to your target audience). Rule-of-thumb, don’t.
  • State what the buttons do.
  • Be very specific. Use the correct terms.
  • Put important words at the front. Use “Continue” instead of “click to continue”.

When it is clear to the user what to do, they get a sense of reassurance, which makes it easier for them to take the next step towards conversion.

Microcopy should contain the following:

  • It should be clear and straight to the point.
  • The fewer words, the better. Never use more than one sentence. The more succinct the copy, the higher the chance that users will read it.
  • Talk to one person, not many. Most people access websites on their computers or mobile device by themselves. Talk straight to them.
  • Use language your audience would use. If you’re selling inflatable pool floaties, there’s no need to be formal.

When does your website need microcopy?
There are two main ways to determine where on your website you need microcopy; analyzing your interface and user-testing.

Interface analysis:
Analyze every interaction on your website, every button, form, menu, sub-menu, error message, links, and more. Anything where there is potential user interaction. Identify where the copy can be clearer, more succinct, and more specific.

Look at how people use your site. Where to they stumble or hesitate, what questions do they ask?

Microcopy & Error messages:
One of the most frustrating things on a site is when you’re trying to do something, but for some reason, the site is not allowing you too, and you can’t figure out why. Why does the form not want to submit, why can’t I add something to my favorites or cart? This is one of the areas microcopy has to address.

The copy should tell people why they can’t continue or are experiencing a problem and explain how they can ‘fix’ it, or tips and suggestions on what the problem might be. Whatever you do, don’t just leave users hanging, it’s a sure-fire way to get them to go leave your site.

The language you use for these error messages is as important. It needs to fit with your brand. If you’re selling luxury cars, a quirky error message is not appropriate. If you’re selling yoga pants, there’s no need to be formal.

If you want a high-converting website, then conversion copywriting is essential. Even if you don’t write the copy yourself, knowing and understanding the principles that guide it will empower you to make more informed decisions around your company’s conversion rate optimization strategy.

In the next part of the three-part module in the Fundamentals course on writing for optimization, we will look at how to review and improve conversion copy, and how to write high-converting value propositions.

Take the short cut to digital marketing success. Contact JMarketing and discuss your options to increase your conversion rates, and immediately skyrocket your results. Click this link and complete the enquiry form, we will contact you back right away.

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About the Author

Joshua Strawczynski
Managing Director

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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