Copywriting for CRO: Tips for SMEs

How copywriting could be your most powerful weapon in the battle for conversion rate optimisation

Any online content strategy begins with clear and specific goals. So, why do you need online copy? Are you trying to raise brand awareness? Generate new leads? Make your brand more visible online? Reach a new audience or strengthen your relationship with the one you already have? Search engine optimisation (SEO) is often a priority for growth-hungry businesses. But while drawing new traffic to your online presence is a worthy goal, getting users to behave in a desirable way when they reach your website is a whole other discipline.


Through the art and science of conversion rate optimisation (CRO), brands can increase their chances of desirable outcomes when users enter their digital domain. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about CRO, and how do the choices we make in our online copy encourage users to behave in ways that benefit us?   


Join us as we explore this oft-neglected but important discipline and recount some practical tips for incorporating elements of CRO in your brand copywriting. 



What is conversion rate optimisation?


CRO involves optimising your website in order to encourage a specific action from a user. A conversion does not necessarily mean a sale or a commitment to buy (although this is one form of conversion). Conversion may involve any number of discrete actions such as:


  • Signing up to your email newsletter.
  • Subscribing to your blog or podcast.
  • Joining the waiting list for a new product or service.
  • Downloading a lead magnet such as a free e-book or white paper.


While the user actions you wish to solicit will depend on the aims of your current campaign, long-form copywriting (alongside other disciplines such as UX copywriting and web design) can improve a user’s chances of completing a desired action and helping your brand achieve its campaign goals. 


The role of copywriting in CRO


To paraphrase a quote from both master storyteller Alan Moore and fictional wizard headmaster Albus Dumbledore, words are our most inexhaustible supply of magic. There is no hyperbole in asserting that the right words at the right time can (and do) bring about world-changing outcomes. They can guide strategy, shape policy, and change the course of entire industries and markets. For instance, when Bill Gates said that ‘content is king’ in 1996, he preempted the exponential growth of monetised online content that today encompasses everything from paywalled articles in the Telegraph to sponsored YouTube videos. Those words have changed the way we in the online age think of the word ‘content’. 


Likewise, the art of CRO can employ the persuasive use of language to engender trust, inspire confidence and encourage decisive action on the part of the reader.


Long-form copy such as case studies, blog posts, e-books and white papers can generate value for readers while also building trust and confidence in your brand and positioning you as the solution to their problems. Likewise, shorter forms of copy like a call to action (CTA) can increase a user’s chances of performing a specific action, such as clicking on a link or filling in a short form. 


10 Tips for optimising conversion rates


Hopefully we’ve given you some insight into the nature of CRO and how copywriting can be an effective tool in improving conversion rates. But far be it for us to leave you pondering on abstractions. Let’s take a look at ten practical tips that brands can use to improve their conversion rates through copywriting.


1. Always write with the audience in mind


The key to writing persuasive copy that drives conversions is to approach everything you write through the prism of the reader’s needs. What information will they be looking for? How urgently do they need it? What information can you provide that would compel them to action? How will the copy you write provide the reader with value and a favourable impression of your brand? 


When writing, there can be tension between the creative flow of the author and the needs of the reader. Try to consider the information that a reader will prioritise and put this at the forefront of your copy as clearly and succinctly as possible. 


Not only will this provide value for the reader, but it will also naturally improve your copy’s SEO.


2. Consider the brevity and clarity of your copy


Nobody appreciates a long and flowery sentence more than us. But while an elaborate turn of phrase can paint a vivid picture, it can also obfuscate meaning. While a blog post, for instance, may afford writers some creative licence, the readers of a blog will have very different needs from the readers of a landing or product page.


In the latter example, a reader will want easy access to the kind of information that will inform their future actions, whether this is choosing a new credit card or bleeding their radiators. This clarification is another measure that can improve both CRO and SEO, giving both users and search engine crawlers easier access to high-quality, directly relevant information. 


3. Incorporate brand storytelling 


We’ve already discussed in detail how brand storytelling can greatly enhance your digital marketing efforts. But can it increase the persuasiveness of your copy in ways that affect CRO?


We would argue that brand storytelling is, in fact, a cornerstone of successful CRO. We know that stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than facts, and that stories can add a human element to your brand, increasing the chances of your copy resonating with the reader on an emotional and personal level. So be sure to incorporate storytelling elements into your copy wherever possible.


For instance:


  • Establish a clear and concise brand story and incorporate it into your messaging. 
  • Use imagery, graphics and video to make your copy come alive.
  • Tell your customers’ stories as well as your own with compelling customer testimonials or case studies.
  • Add narrative elements to your product or service descriptions, positioning them as the solution to the readers’ problems. 


4. Resist the urge to sell


The aim of your copy may well be to drive sales. But being too overtly salesman-like in your delivery may be off-putting to readers, even if they would really benefit from your offering. Trying too hard to consciously sell with your copy can come across as insincere and potentially damage the reader’s faith in your brand.


Instead, anchor everything you write in the needs, priorities and aspirations of your target audience. Tell stories that resonate with them and use your customers’ real-life experiences to make a case for your brand as a worthy solution for the reader.


5. Remember the importance of structure and flow


UX copywriting is the art of using copy to guide, inform and enhance the user’s experience. There are many ways in which UX copy can help to improve conversion rates. However, the simplest and most fundamental aspects of the user experience are structure and flow. This should be considered when shaping long-form copy.


Your structure should feel like a river gently helping the reader float along the page to their destination. Your choice of headers and subheaders should have a logical sense of progression while also preventing the copy from becoming an intimidating slab of text.  


6. Remember the 4 Ps of persuasive copy



Writing copy that’s designed to persuade can feel unwieldy, even to seasoned copywriters. A fine line must be walked between providing value for the reader and increasing the chances of a conversion (i.e. a favourable outcome). If you’re feeling unsure about the tone and structure of your copy, or you’ve received a first draft from a copywriter that feels tonally off-kilter, just remember the four Ps of persuasive copy:


  • Problem- acknowledge the problem the reader may look to you to solve. 
  • Promise- establish your offering as the most viable solution to their problem.
  • Proof- qualify your offering with social proof such as user reviews or case studies.
  • Proposal- directly offer a solution to the reader via a compelling call to action (more on those later).


7. Don’t be afraid to rely on emotive language


Brands can be forgiven for shying away from using emotive language. After all, nobody wants to appear manipulative in the eyes of readers. But without employing at least some emotive devices, copy can come across as extremely dry and inaccessible. Granted, this may be appropriate in some instances, like when writing highly technical copy. Most of the time, however, the subtle employment of emotive language devices can add colour and seasoning that keeps copy engaging and resonant.


Addressing the audience directly, asking rhetorical questions and employing devices such as descriptive adjectives or emotive adverbs do not necessarily cheat or deceive the reader. Rather, it can engage the senses, alert the mind and help the reader feel a greater affinity for your brand.  


8. Use tools to gauge the clarity of your work


Generally speaking, writers are the absolute worst people to judge the readability of their own work. The thoughts, views and insights contained within the words on-screen are already fully formed in the writer’s head as their fingers dance across the keyboard. So, when they proofread their work, while they may spot the odd spelling or grammatical error they may not accurately gauge the clarity and readability of their work.


Fortunately, there are automated online tools that can apply readability indexes to copy, therefore providing a more objective account of its readability. The Hemingway app is a good example of this. 


9. Create a sense of urgency


People tend to act less decisively when they feel that they have the luxury of time. This is why scarcity marketing is such a powerful tool. It capitalises on the audience’s fear of missing out (or FOMO if you happen to be under 40) and can make the difference between apathy and action. We see myriad examples of this in the world of retail marketing, where everything must go, when stock is gone, it’s gone, and if shoppers miss it they miss out.  


Brands can still create a sense of urgency, even if there is no scarcity. 


Human SEO encyclopaedia Neil Patel provides a good example of this when contrasting two calls to action to download a free e-book. The first version used the CTA ‘Get It Now’, while the second used a more emotive alternative ‘Grab Yours Today’. The latter had a 5% higher conversion rate because of the sense of urgency and immediacy inherent in the language. The verb ‘grab’ implies limited availability, while the establishing of a timeframe in the word ‘today’ implies that the reader has limited time to act. Even though an e-book can be replicated an unlimited number of times and the offer had no predetermined time limit.  


10. Master the art of the CTA


The above brings us very neatly to the art of the CTA. If there was ever a device that encapsulates the discipline of conversion rate optimisation, this is it. It is an appeal to the reader to carry out a specific action, such as clicking on a link. 


What makes the difference between a CTA that compels the reader to take action and one that is ignored? While design certainly plays a part, the copy itself is also a significant factor. In the above example, we saw how altering three words led to a 5% increase in conversion rate. But how can you ensure that your CTAs really do call to action rather than falling on deaf ears?


Don’t worry, we have some tips:


  • Keep your CTA brief, punchy and succinct.
  • Use buttons rather than plain hyperlinks (who doesn’t love pushing buttons?).
  • Use emotive language to convey a sense of urgency.
  • Use personalisation to create a sense of intimacy and exclusivity.
  • Employ reverse psychology by displaying an alternative link (e.g. no, I don’t want to grow my business/boost traffic/unlock my company’s potential).


This list is by no means definitive. Nor should you aim to cram each of these CRO-friendly features into everything you write. However, by keeping all of the above in mind, we hope that writing with CRO in mind will aid you in the creation of compelling, purposeful copy that strengthens the reader’s relationship with your brand. 

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