Copywriting for Conversion (Part 2/3) | CRO Training by JMarketing
If your website isn’t converting, you might be using the wrong words, and saying the wrong thing!
What you say and how you say it are powerful persuaders and can have a huge impact on your bottom line. In fact, the common belief is that pictures sell better than words. While pictures do well, words do better. You can have the world’s most striking images, but without the right words, conversion is near-impossible.
The purpose of conversion rate optimization (CRO) is to understand what the customer wants and needs, how they make decisions, and how they take action. This understanding helps to create an attractive and persuasive environment that makes it easy for customers to convert. Writing great copy for conversion is a critical part of the most effective conversion rate optimization strategies in the world.
Copywriting for conversion is a specialized skill, and any top conversion rate optimization agency worth its salt employs at least one specialist copywriter to write high-converting copy. In the same breath, writing great copy is not solely for the experts, and with guidance and practice, you can also write copy that converts.
In the previous module, we covered the fundamentals of writing copy for conversion, and also microcopy — what it is, where to use it, and how to write it.
In this, the second of the three-part module in the Fundamentals course on writing for optimization, we will look at how to spot bad writing and how to improve it, as well as writing value propositions that sell.
How to review and improve conversion copy
As mentioned in the ‘How to write for conversion’ module (Part 1) this is not necessarily going to turn you into an award-winning copywriter, or even just a good one, but it is going to give you the tools to be able to tell good copy from bad. It will allow you to give specific, constructive feedback when using professional writers. Regardless of who writes it, no copy is absolutely perfect, and can always be improved.
It is important to remember that the style of successful marketing writing changes with time. What worked in the 1990s, didn’t work in the 2000s, which in turn won’t work in 2020. When writing (or reviewing) copy, consider people’s attitude to copywriting, their skepticism, and how savvy they are to pick up on hype and false claims.
What makes copy good?
Copy is meant to persuade people to read it and then to take the action you’d like them to. While there aren’t any rules or principles to follow that will guarantee excellent copy time-and-time again, all great copy features these six characteristics:
It is clear:
Good copy is simple, clear, and makes sense. The whole idea of copy is to create more focus and less confusion.
It is credible:
Be truthful in what you write. If you give facts, show proof to back it up. Be specific, not vague. When copy is vague, people get suspicious. Remember: credibility can’t be bought. Once you lose credibility, it is incredibly difficult to gain people’s trust again.
Good copy communicates how the reader will benefit, what value the product or service will bring to them. No hype, just value. People are allergic to hype these days, so make the value simple. The reader should instantly understand what they stand to gain.
Doesn’t use jargon:
As a general rule, good copy doesn’t include jargon. The exception is if the copy is aimed at a very specific target audience, such as stockbrokers, or engineers, who will understand it. Do your research and be 100% certain that it’s going to be understood by all.
It is interesting:
No-one likes boring, so if your copy is boring, then chances are that people won’t read it. They might start, but they’ll abandon it quickly if they don’t find it interesting. What does a dentist find interesting? Do research and find out.
Just the right length:
There is no such thing as the perfect length. The type of product or service you’re selling will determine the length, as some products or services require longer copy than others to sell. However, keep the copy as concise as possible, while answering all of the reader’s questions. Look at every sentence. If a sentence doesn’t drive the process forward, then it has to be cut.
Critique copy constructively
An important part of the copy review process is giving feedback or critique. It is an essential step to ensure the best possible copy is produced.
If you’ve written the copy, take a step away from it and have someone else give it a look. When you are so involved with writing, it’s easy to miss something, especially small errors. Regardless of who wrote the copy, it’s always better for more than one person to look it over and give feedback.
When reviewing copy, dissect every headline, sub-heading, paragraph, and sentence with the 6 characteristics of good copy in mind:
- Is it clear?
- Is it credible?
- Is it interesting?
- Does it communicate value?
- Is it full of jargon?
- How long is it? Too short or too long?
Also look for missing information, inconsistencies, lack of flow and structure, and very importantly, spelling and grammar mistakes. Bad spelling and grammar can tarnish your credibility and make you look like an amateur.
Critique should always be constructive, otherwise, it serves no purpose and doesn’t benefit anyone.
Once you’ve given the writer your feedback, they will update it with changes and send it back to you. At this stage, the copy should either be ‘perfect’ or almost there. Run through the review process again, then send final notes.
Note that most professional writers usually limit reverts (rounds of feedback) to two. This forces you, the client, to look at the copy thoroughly and consider your feedback carefully, and keeps it from becoming an endless cycle of rewrites and reviews.
Writing a Value Proposition
If your website is like a music concert, then the value proposition is the headline act. The value proposition is what drives people to read more about your product or service, one step closer to converting. It’s also one of the main things that will make people leave your site and go somewhere else. Getting your value proposition right is extremely important because it is directly linked to conversions.
Your value proposition should appear on your home page, as well as every landing page that can serve as a point-to-entry into your site.
What is a value proposition?
In short, a value proposition is a benefit you offer to the customer. It is a statement that is relevant (solves a problem), has a measurable value (specific benefit), and differentiates the product or service from those of competitors.
It has to be simple, customer-appropriate language that people understand. Doing research is key to establishing the correct language and tone. Interview people from your target audience to discover how and what should be said.
While the value proposition is arguably the most important element on the page, it doesn’t have to be the first thing people see when they arrive on your page, as long as it’s clearly visible.
Note that if your company isn’t very well known, you’re going to need a very strong value proposition, because you don’t have an established brand to back you.
A great example is the note-taking app, Evernote. Their website communicates exactly what they offer and what you can expect when you use their application.
It’s important to remember that a value proposition is NOT a slogan or catchphrase. Nike’s “Just do it” or Amazon’s “Work hard. Have fun.” are not value propositions. The classic Land Rover slogan “The best 4 x 4 x far” sounds like a value proposition, but it is actually what is known as a positioning statement, which is similar to a value proposition but isn’t.
Elements of a value proposition & how to evaluate it:
The value proposition is typically a block of copy that contains a headline, sub-heading, and an image, illustration, or graphics.
In the past, good value propositions also included a couple of bullet points to list the main features or benefits. These days bullet points are rare, as sites are leaning more towards cleaner, uncluttered aesthetics. However, they still feature on optimized landing pages.
This is what has to grab the reader’s attention and communicate the value or benefits of what you’re offering in one, concise sentence.
This gives more details about the value proposition. Square does this well: “From payments to payroll, there are Square solutions for almost everything.”
Use a high-quality image that supports and reinforces your value proposition. If you’re selling a product, show the product. If it’s a service, show the service in action.
To evaluate your value proposition, you can ask these four questions:
- What am I selling?
- How does it benefit the customer?
- Who is the target customer?
- Why is my offer better, different, or unique to my specific customer?
The last question is important because very often, businesses try to create value propositions that cater to everyone. Remember, you’re targeting a specific audience, make sure your value proposition is unique to them. If you get customers from outside that audience, then it’s a bonus.
How to stand out from the competition:
Most often, businesses provide products or services that are similar to those of the competition. When this happens, the focus of your value proposition turns to what you do better than the competition.
Here are a couple of things to consider which will help you determine what sets you apart from your competitors — remember, you won’t be able to answer all the questions positively, but it’s a starting point for both creating a better value proposition, and discovering where you can improve.
- Is your website easier to navigate?
- Can your product or service be adapted to be more specific to your market?
- Are your prices better?
- Is your customer service better (specifically when it comes to returns)?
- Do you ship faster? How do you handle returns shipping?
- Are you more knowledgable about the product or service?
If you’re still stuck, offer more value:
When your product offering is still similar to that of your competitor, try offering customers more value such as free and/or fast shipping, free setup or installation, easy returns, flexible contracts, discounts on bulk or bundles, and the like. Even something small can set you apart from your competition and result in more sales.
One of the key parts of successful conversion rate optimization is testing elements to gauge their performance, then improving on it. The same goes for value propositions. Split testing is a great way to test your value proposition by serving different versions to online advertising and analyze the results. If the value proposition works, then great, if it doesn’t, improve it.
Conversion copywriting is an essential element to conversion rate optimization, and every high-converting website contains words that are carefully crafted with one goal in mind — increasing conversions. Even if you’re not the one writing the copy, knowing how to spot bad writing and how to improve it, as well as understanding how to compose a value proposition that sells, will allow you to give valuable feedback to writers. This will result in better, more effective, and most optimized writing.
In the next part of the three-part module in the Fundamentals course on writing for optimization, we will look at when it is best to use video, how to structure content for it, and how to write compelling scripts that sell.
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