The how, what, and why of copy testing

A conversation with Green Light Copy’s Eden Bidani about Experimentation

I recently spoke to Eden about what conversion copywriting is, how she recommends generating variations of copy to test, and how she really feels about: semicolons.


Rommil: Hi Eden, how are you? Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today!

Eden: Hi Rommil, I’m well thank G-d. How are you? Thanks again for having me here today.

Of course! So, let’s start with a bit about you. Could you share with us what you do, and a bit about how you got to where you are today?

Sure. So, I started out years ago in direct sales. Telemarketing, door knocking, and selling face-to-face. It’s not an easy job but you learn very quickly how to connect with people in a genuine manner, even if they weren’t interested in what you’re selling.

You learn how to spark that initial conversation and how to listen to what they’re sharing with you — not just the black and white, but the deeper things they hint at between the lines. As I come from an anthropology background, this whole process fascinates me. (It still does.)

Ha! I guess I’ll be selecting my words very carefully today. Sorry, go on.

Nah, it doesn’t work like that. (At least, not most of the time…!) So, anyway, I was writing sales scripts and pitches and marketing copy to help myself and other salespeople sell. And it wasn’t long before I realized I could use these same skills online.

And I’ve been in conversion copy ever since.

https://greenlightcopy.com/

Cool. On your LinkedIn profile, you call yourself a Conversion Copywriter. For those unfamiliar with what a Conversion Copywriter is, can you tell us what that is and why we should be doing it more?

Thanks, Rommil, so basically, conversion copywriting is all about getting the “yes” where the “yes” is a specific action. Whether that’s clicking on a link, downloading free content, signing up for a demo, or even buying right now. So in one sense, it’s like direct response copy, but conversion copy is very heavily grounded in data.

That data can come from 1 on 1 customer interviews, survey responses, and data mining, but it’s what we uncover in the data that drives the direction and underlying messages of the copy.

And then it’s simply a matter of testing and testing again to find the right messages that resonate with your audience.

That makes sense. How do you get started? How do you come up with hypotheses to test?


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So in order to start testing anything in copy you first have to do your research. And your research will be 75–80% of your work. Not kidding. You basically do a deep dive on your audience with the aim of understanding what’s on their mind right now and what matters to them the most, so you can know how to position your offer within that context.

And so based on your research, you’ll come up with a hypothesis of the core messages in the copy that will engage your audience and help encourage them to convert. But because even within an audience segment people are complex and multifaceted, it could be you need to present your core messages in a certain order — like 2, 3, 1 instead of 1, 2, 3 — in order to drive conversions.

And then it might not even be those core messages. Maybe you discovered during research that you have 5 different core messages that resonate with your audience. So you can keep testing different combinations of those 5 core messages to see what drives the best results.

For example, some people find it easier to grasp the underlying messages in your copy when you relate it back to the pain or problem they’re experiencing. While others might instinctively push back on anything that’s negative and will respond better when you position the copy with a positive slant.

Would you test every permutation, then?

Well, no, because you simply can’t test everything. Because it depends on how easily you can run the tests and how quickly you can get to statistical significance.

For example, websites are tricky. You have to prioritize the most important elements or pages on the site in terms of what would have the biggest impact on conversions.

Unlike when testing Facebook or Google Ads where you can write multiple variations, mix and match the copy and creative elements between them, and push money behind them to test.

Another example, say you’re testing multiple landing pages. As a general rule, they are the headline and crosshead in the hero section (David Ogilvy said you should spend 90% of your time writing the headline and 10% writing the body copy and he’s not wrong), the lede (the first sentences that draw the reader in the body copy, CTA (call to action) button copy, and microcopy before and after the CTA.

Body copy of course, is no less important, but it’s often these elements that have the biggest impact on bounce rate and conversions which is why it’s worth testing them, first.

What would be your approach to getting copy testing prioritized?

It’s so crucial that if you don’t have enough traffic to get statistical significance with your tests, then at least test it another way. Such as getting feedback via UserTesting, CopyTesting, or 5 Second Tests, or running ads that test different value propositions and core messaging so you can at least have some indication as to which messages perform better in the copy before unleashing the changes on your site.

How does copy testing impact things like SEO?

This is a tricky one because while SEO is important, the algorithms now are so wonderfully sophisticated and are prioritizing relevant, engaging copy. It’s a fine balance, and it will depend a lot on how much the client relies on SEO versus other methods of driving traffic.

Tone and voice is something that Experimenters often want to test — how would you suggest testing this considering it’s not easy to change the copy on an entire site?

Right, so just like before, you should try to get it in front of your audience in other ways. If you have an email list, you can test different tone and voice with different emails. Same with Facebook ads. The great thing about this is that you can get feedback very quickly, so you’ll have an indication as to whether you’re going in the right direction or if it was a miss.

Finally, it’s time for the Lightning round

For or against the Oxford comma

For, for, for, and for!

Kiss, Marry, Kill: The em-dash, the ellipsis, the semicolon

Will never give up em-dashes or ellipses. But the semicolon can take a long walk off a short pier.

What is your biggest pet peeve about copywriting?

Editing while I write. It’s the hardest thing to force yourself to write out a bad first draft and then “edit in the awesome” as Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers says. But it cuts down on your writing time like crazy.

If you couldn’t work in Experimentation, what would you do?

Probably blogging. At least it’d mean I can still write for a living.

Describe Eden in 5 words or less.

Curious. Thoughtful. And customer-focused.

Thank you, Eden, for joining the conversation!



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