Archive for the ‘Copywriting’ Category

Can You Write Viral Copy like The Huffington Post? Here’s 6 reasons why you might not be stacking up

December 22nd, 2014 2 comments

If you’ve ever opened a Web browser, chances are you’ve visited The Huffington Post. That might be related to the fact that they (by a landslide) publish the largest number of viral stories on the Web, according to NewsWhip.

One of my favorite things to do when I find out someone is the best at something is analyze their method … and steal the hell out of it.

So I ran a query through one of my favorite sites, BuzzSumo, a content analysis search engine (my description, not theirs), and pulled up HuffPost’s most shared content over the past year.

Because you’re all marketers, and most of the world’s marketing is full of junk, I decided to let you look over my shoulder at my little swipe-file of sorts.

After studying the top 100 headlines The Huffington Post has written in the past year, I found a few reasons why most marketers (myself included) are failing to connect with their audiences compared to The Huffington Post, who is obviously pretty good at it.

Here are the top six reasons I found for why your viral copy isn’t as good as The Huffington Post’s (I’ve included the headlines I found so you can steal them with me.)

WARNING: Some of the headlines you see below may be offensive to some people. Please understand that at MarketingExperiments, we do not take any official positions on politics, religion or personal beliefs. We are only interested in studying what works in marketing. The headlines below are simply a dataset to be studied and learned from, not an official statement on a particular position MarketingExperiments takes.


Reason #1: You’re not writing copy that helps your audience discover something new about themselves

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy 1255809
5 Minutes In A Mom’s Head 1039541
10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World 624656
18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently 705417
The Achiever, the Peacemaker and the Life of the Party: How Birth Order Affects Personality 364977


Apparently, most Huffington Post readers are highly creative, introverted, yuppie moms with siblings. If that’s your audience, then start writing content like the articles you see above.

If it’s not your audience, then think about what you know about your audience that they may not know about themselves and incorporate it into your copy.

Helping someone understand his or her self is probably one of the best things you can do for a person. Also, it’s a big business — just ask your psychiatrist or look at your next bill.

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Why Subtle Changes in Button Copy Can Significantly Influence Clicks

September 29th, 2014 2 comments

Earlier this year, a team of analysts approached me about a closed case that was reopened for additional interpretation. It was about button copy, and the results were initially baffling.

Here are three of the prominent treatments and their respective clickthrough rates, each with a statistically significant difference in comparison:


Does this look familiar? While Daniel Burstein did a great job covering the “what” of this test earlier this year in this MarketingExperiments Blog post, he did not have opportunity to go into the why:

  • Why didn’t “Start Free Trial” win?
  • Isn’t there more value by highlighting the word “Free?”
  • Why is it that the word “Now” in “Get Started” was the difference between underperforming or outperforming “Start Free Trial?”

Everyone in digital marketing is convinced that a call-to-action is a button or a link — something that people can click, or touch, and it will take them off the current view and into another. Because of this preconception, they often create and improve their calls-to-action with the same kind of tunneled focus.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the customer looks at it.


To the customer, the clickable thing has no meaning outside of its surrounding context

Take this classic example of context from Leonard Mlodinow’s book Subliminal.


Read this sentence:

“The cooking teacher said the children made good snacks.”


Now read this one:

“The cannibal said the children made good snacks.”


The meaning of the word “made” has significantly changed hasn’t it? In fact, the meaning of that one word is dependant on the context in which it is placed.1

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Copywriting: How to tip the scale so customers act

July 10th, 2014 1 comment

When writing copy for promotions, content and advertising, many writers tend to be pulled between two possible directions: creativity on one side, and communication on the other.

How can I be creative and still effectively communicate the ideas I have?


Think like the customer

Creativity and communication are not the two opposing forces in the customer’s mind. The customer is weighing these two decisions:

  • What is the value of this?
  • How much will it cost me?

“Essentially the prospect, even if at a subconscious level, engages in elementary math: VfAc - CfAc, which is to say, they subtract the perceived cost force from the perceived value force,” said Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, parent company of MarketingExperiments.

This idea is illustrated in the heuristic below to help you see the net force of the value proposition:



You can dive deeper into the above heuristic in the MECLABS Value Proposition Development Course.

In this MarketingExperiments Blog post, we’ll take a look at two key copy elements – one very close to an actual purchase and another much farther up the funnel – and see what value and cost factors the customer might be considering.


Key Copy Element #1. Button copy


“Select Lodging” vs. “See All Rentals”


The button copy on the right achieved a 427% higher clickthrough rate than the button copy on the left.

This was not a single-factor test; other elements were changed on the landing pages that likely affected conversion rate, as well. You can see those in the full MarketingSherpa webinar replay of “Web Optimization: How one company implements an entire testing strategy every day.”

But, this is still a good example of weighing value and cost.

“Select Lodging” subtly implies more cost. The language puts the monkey on the customer’s back. Now, the prospective customer has to take the time to look through different options. Cost is about much more than just money. In this case, the cost is time (a form of mental cost). Of course, this button also implies the cost of actually purchasing the lodging (a form of material cost).

On the flipside, “See All Rentals” implies more value. Nothing is asked of the prospective customer. Instead, there is an offer to the prospective customer. Essentially, the copy conveys there are many rentals for the customer to view.

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Copywriting: Do you take your prospects on a journey?

February 27th, 2014 3 comments

You’ve seen the statistics. Customers receive 12 million billion marketing messages a day.

Plus they’re busy, and have short attention spans.

So you may think, “I have to get my sales message and value prop to my customers as quickly as possible.”

But your goal as a marketer is not to get quick information in the hands of a customer. It’s to take them on …


The buyer’s journey

Let’s use “Star Wars” as an analogy.

George Lucas could have made a two-minute video on YouTube and said, “So … they’re brother and sister. And on top of it, the dude he’s fighting is actually his dad. Weird, huh?”

But if he did, I’m betting he wouldn’t have this level of brand loyalty more than 30 years later.

Storytelling is powerful.

It helps people see a new way of looking at the world. As a marketer, that includes how the world would be with your product or service in it.

By taking your prospects through a story, you help to welcome them into the world of your product, help them drop their defenses to actually hear what you’re saying, and get them to internalize your value proposition.

Your challenge is to decide how every element of your marketing can take them on that journey. For a simple purchase, this journey may happen in a single email or print ad. For a considered purchase, it may occur across an email drip campaign, nurture track or an entire marketing funnel.

You can watch the free MarketingExperiments Web clinic replay, “Copywriting on Tight Deadlines: How ordinary marketers are achieving 103% gains with a step-by-step framework,” to learn more about how story connects to the conversion process.


Photo attribution: Star Wars Blog

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Copywriting: Is your landing page missing the “why” factor?

December 26th, 2013 No comments

In a recent Web clinic, Austin McCraw, Senior Editorial Analyst, and Ben Filip, Data Sciences Manager, both of MECLABS, revealed how marketers at an auto repair company increased purchases 36% by testing the copy on their landing page.

But first, let’s review the research notes for some background on the test.

Background: A medium-sized company selling an auto repair product.

Goal: To increase the number of purchases.

Primary Research Question: Which landing page will generate the highest conversion rate?

Approach: A/B multifactor split test




The team hypothesized that a key problem identified in the control was the lack of one of the most critical elements of copy needed for a product – the “why” factor.

“They tell you what it is and what is does for you and these kinds of things, but they don’t ever touch on why somebody would need the product,” Ben said.




In the treatment, the team added the headline, “Does your car have a blown head gasket?” to address who the product is designed to help and the treatment included bullet points that list symptoms of a blown head gasket to support why visitors should use the product.



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Copywriting: How long (or short) should your copy be?

How long should this blog post be?

What about your landing page? Or email?

Content length discussions are as old as human communication itself. When Ug (the first critic) said to Zog about his cave paintings, “You had me at ‘Zog kill bison.’ All the rest was unnecessary commentary. I lost interest.”

On Wednesday’s free MarketingExperiments Web clinic – “Long Copy vs. Short Copy: How discovering the optimal length of a webpage produced a 220% increase in conversion” – Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, will share our discoveries about copy length.

But first, we asked the MarektingExperiments community for their opinions on copy length. Here’s the long (and short) of it …


No such thing as too long or too short

There is no such thing as too long or too short when it comes to copy. It’s like a long ball or a short ball in football. If it’s effective, then that is the one to use. The right one.

The key to any copy is the headline, followed by the first paragraph and so on until the P.S., putting in sub-headings for the browsers and enough detail to emotionally engage the reader.

The same is true of video. When the quality of the writing is good, it creates emotional engagement with some logical elements which people use to rationalize their emotional buying decision. No one complains their favorite book was too long to read … or their favorite film was too long to watch. That’s because they are emotionally engaging.

So, the answer to the question is …

“Copy should be long enough to emotionally engage the prospect and give them enough rational reasons to back their emotional decision to purchase.”

If it’s good enough copy, (the message) going to the right person, (the market) in the right format, (the media), then you are onto a winner.

When you can’t deliver enough quality copy in the media you are using, e.g. radio ad, or press ad, then you write a call-to-action advert which gets people to request the detailed copy or go somewhere they can get hold of it.

- Boyd Butler, Consultant


What is your customer’s goal? How do they find your content?

I’ll take a counter point to Boyd.

First thing, not all content will work in all situations, regardless of your copy. You have to look at how the consumer will be engaging with the content, and how they come across it. If you break down content into two buckets, people engage with content to do the following:

  1. Research a purchase
  2. Professional development (Entertainment is a veil we use to make this more palatable)

Inside of both of these, you can then further break it down to [the question]: how do they find the content? This factor determines the odds of your content getting engaged with.

People find content two ways:

  1. They search for it
  2. It is sent to them

For example, if someone is researching a purchase, they are more likely to like a longer form of content. Why? Because they are seeking out information to make an informed decision. This means they are doing a search, and asking to engage with content.

Most of us also require a form to be filled out to access the content. This means there is a negotiation going on with the consumer as well. We are asking them to give up something in exchange for the content. So, there has to be [significant] value on the content for them to give up their email address.

In these situations, a longer, or full, document performs better. At first glance, a larger document appears to have more value than a short document, hence is a better deal for the person. So, they are more likely to engage with it in that situation.

Compare this to content sent via email. The consumer is not in research mode (unless your email is on a drip campaign following up researching activity), and they are in work mode. This means professional development content is more likely to get engaged with.

We are disrupting their day. So, they do not have the time to read a long form piece of content. They need to engage with the content in a short time period. They have to stop their task at hand to read your content. In this scenario, short form content works better.

I suggest the rule of five in these cases. Make sure your content can be digested in under five minutes, and that is clear to the consumer. If you do this, you are increasing your odds of engagement when disrupting their day.

You need to look at when and where your content is going to be engaged with, to make sure you are creating the best content, giving you the best odds of engagement. You also need to combine this with your goals. The goal of content should never be to make someone sales ready. It should be to move them to the next stage in their lifecycle. I have never read a piece of content and said, “OK, I’ll buy it.” Especially not in the B2B world where there is a large amount of research.

The stats back up these claims with the following data:

Stat #1: The more expensive your product, the more research someone must do.

Stat #2: People break research up into stages, and usually perform two to three different batches of research before they reach out to set up demos.

Stat #3: People prefer their content to be under five pages, in general.

This research will be made public in my report published by Pardot coming up in the next month. You can also see me present on this data at the B2B Inspiration Tour.

- Mathew Sweezey, Manager of Marketing Research and Education, Pardot


Focus on customer personas

I think it all depends on how you know your customer persona. For example, if you market to women/housewives/24-32/living in Texas, I think long copy of human talk (the one that you have while you are with you friends) will be perfect – especially if you include a chance to add comments (with a plugin like Disqus).

On the other hand, if you market to professional males/19-33/living in New York, then you need a catchy headline with a short copy.

- Ahmed Seddiq, Senior Operation Officer, Corporate Visa Services, Dnata, The Emirates Group


Related Resources:

Long Copy vs. Short Copy: How discovering the optimal length of a webpage produced a 220% increase in conversion – Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 4:00 – 4:35 p.m. EDT

Long Copy vs. Short Copy: How our micro-testing increased conversion rate by more than 100%

Content Marketing: Focus on value, not length

Copywriting: Long copy vs. short copy matrix

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