A picture may be worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean that the words found on your website aren’t powerful as well!

To see just how important they are, consider a research study from Carnegie Mellon, which found that changing the phrase “a $5 fee” to “a small $5 fee” on a sample free DVD trial program website increased sign-up rates by more than 20%.  That’s pretty powerful stuff for such a small change!

If you aren’t a great writer, don’t worry.  The science of copywriting has been studied for so long that many of its most popular tips can be applied even if you don’t quite understand why they work.  Give any of the following recommendations a try if you want to make a measurable difference in your website’s conversion rates:

Be authentic

You aren’t Coca-Cola, so there’s no reason to try to emulate their copywriting strategies in your own work.  Instead, think about what you have to offer and what type of personality you’ve cultivated for your brand.  Then, be sure these considerations flow into your copy, creating content that’s both engaging and authentic.

Cut your words in half

In the same way that Coco Chanel recommended taking off one accessory before leaving the house, most website owners can stand to remove half the words they originally added to their copy.  Before publishing any new content, pare your sentences down to their most basic elements and then add back in only those words that truly support the goal of your content.

Incorporate emotionally-charged language

Which of the following phrases strikes you as more effective – “About 600,000 people die of heart disease every year in the United States,” or “Will you be one of the 1 in 4 deaths that heart disease claims every year?”  You can bet that if I was selling a health and fitness product, I’d go with something like the more emotionally-charged second example in order to draw people in!

Focus on verbs, rather than adjectives

Adjectives might seem more descriptive, but it’s really verbs that tell the story.  Compare the two examples below to see why:

“Cathy is a talented, hard-working and insightful business consultant.”


“Cathy’s advice helped me to grow my business by 35%, create better brand recognition and reduce churn among my customers.”

In the first sentence, there’s nothing super compelling about Cathy as a person.  It isn’t until you incorporate the verbs in the second instance – “grow,” “create” and “reduce” – that you see what she’s really capable of.

Include Copyblogger’s “Top 5” power words

Gregory Ciotti, writing for Copyblogger, shares the following five words that deserve a place in any compelling piece of copy: “You,” “Free,” “Because,” “Instantly” and “New.”  These words can be incredibly powerful – but that doesn’t mean you should slap them into your content just to have them there.  Understand what makes them powerful and use them in a context that makes sense to your audience.

power words

Think like a storyteller

The famous Scheherazade had a pretty great incentive to make her stories engaging – if she didn’t keep her husband intrigued night after night, he would have her executed the next morning.  And while your copy might not have the same life or death consequences, it’s still a great idea to think of your content as a story.  Is it effectively hooking readers in and then moving them through to whatever action you desire?  If not, your story needs some work!

Give every piece of copy a single objective

On the topic of desired actions, it’s important to give every piece of copy you write a single objective.  That objective might be capturing a reader’s initial attention, moving a reader through to the next piece of content or encouraging a particular outcome (for example, an email newsletter opt-in or a sale).  Focusing on one objective at a time minimizes confusion and prevents you from including extraneous text.

Test, test and test again

I can’t say it enough on this blog, but everything you do online can – and should – be tested.  Test everything from the tiniest changes to a headline’s wording to entirely unique content approaches.  Just be sure you understand the limits of different testing methodologies.  If you aren’t comfortable with multivariate testing, stick with A/B protocols to prevent confusion in terms of which specific changes led to the most meaningful of results.

Get to know your audience

This should go without saying, but you can’t write effective copy if you don’t know the people reading it!  Whenever possible, gather data on your audience members through your interactions with them or through more formal research and surveys.  Every piece of information you glean through these efforts can be used to make your copy more effective.

Study headline formulas

One of the best things about copywriting is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Plenty of people have been studying the use of language in persuasive arguments for decades – all you have to do is take what they’ve learned and apply it to your website.  In particular, pay attention to headline formulas.  A simple Google search for this term will turn up hundreds of formats you can copy in order to instantly boost your ability to generate website conversions.

Use numbers

Think about the two following examples – “How to Save Money on Startup Costs” versus “11 Easy Ways to Cut Startup Costs.”  Nine times out of ten, people are going to find the second headline more effective, owing largely to its effective use of numbers.  Numbers make things quantifiable, which makes their value proposition that much clearer.  If you’re offering vague benefits in your copy that don’t seem to connect with readers, try spicing them up with a few concrete numbers.

surprise dog

Be surprising

The average consumer is exposed to millions upon millions of advertising messages during a given year.  If you want yours to get noticed, you’ve got to make it stand out in some way.

One way to do this is through the use of surprise.  Share a surprising statistic or structure your copy in a unique and unexpected way – do whatever you can to disrupt a person’s internal processing mechanism for determining which ads to pay attention to and which ones to skip.  Make it clear that you’ve got something unusual to share.  Most people will respond by giving you their attention.

Address objections intelligently

No matter how great your product or service is, there will always be people who have objections.  Don’t be afraid of this!  Instead, play “Devil’s advocate” by using their questions to make your copy even more compelling.  Social psychologist Charlan Nemeth found that arguments made using this style were actually more likely to convince readers to support it, rather than disagree with it, so don’t be afraid to get in touch with your devilish side!

It isn’t about you

Writing copy can be such an intimate experience that it can be tough not to take it personally when it isn’t working.  However, you’ve got to let go of ego when it comes to copywriting.  It isn’t about what you like – it’s about what your customers want.  If tests show that copy features you love aren’t working, don’t hesitate for a second to replace them with alternatives that might perform better.

Turn vague sentences into specific promises

Consider the difference between the following examples – “We’re the best dry cleaning service in town,” versus “Get your dry cleaning back in 1 hour or it’s on us!”  In the first instance, the word “best” isn’t clearly defined, creating a vague promise that doesn’t obviously benefit the reader.  Translating this into a specific promise leads to a much more compelling value proposition for would-be customers.

Be direct

If you aren’t a natural salesperson, closing the deal with your copy can be challenging.  Instead of asking for the sale, you tip-toe around the direct language needed to actually compel prospects to action.  Here are two examples that demonstrate this challenge:

“If you think our widget might help you to run your business more effectively in the future, consider clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button below and downloading it today.”

Compared to…

“To get the business-growth benefits of our widget, click the ‘Buy Now’ button below to download it today.”

Whenever possible, be simple, direct and to the point.  Hedging around your calls-to-action tells readers that you aren’t confident in your product – and if you aren’t, why should they be?

Leave them wanting more

Curiosity is a powerful motivator.  One of the worst things you can do in copywriting is to give up all your secrets at once – after all, doing so leaves no reason for your readers to continue engaging with your content.  Dial things back a notch, and be sure you’re saving some of the good stuff for visitors who actually take steps to engage with your business!

Copywriting is an art, and it’s one that requires continued, consistent practice to be successful.  Try incorporating just 2-3 of the tips above into your own writing.  As you get more comfortable writing this way, add even more and watch your website conversions soar!

  1. I agree that when creating content, especially if you’re knowledge blogging, verbs are a lot more useful. Fluffy language does nothing when you’re trying to teach readers things.

  2. Great points.
    I’m a huge fan of the “Cut your words in half” tip.

    I’m sure Don Draper approves, especially the “Incorporate emotionally-charged language” part 😉

  3. Great compact summary of the most important topics regarding conversion-optimized copywriting! Thanks for sharing Sujan! 🙂
    p.s. I liked the pics as well! 😉

  4. Great to see someone focus on purposeful content. Content for the sake of content won’t achieve anything; and if you want to attract targeted traffic, generate qualified leads, convert more customers, or just add some serious value to the visitor experience, everything needs to be created with a single, laser-focused objective in mind!

    Great post, thank you for writing and sharing!

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