Copy optimisation – where to start?

Copy optimisation can help to prove the commercial value of quality copywriting alone. But where's a good place to start?

 Copy optimisation – where to start?

As a central part of the user experience, good, clever, persuasive copywriting is an essential part of a solid online presence. All on her own, a skilled crafter of copy can deliver tangible ROI – even with a technical platform that’s only 2 steps up from a Speak N Spell.

So what’s the best way to start proving the value of online copy? Answer: Start messing with it, and see what happens next. Welcome to the art – and science – of copy optimisation.

What is copy optimisation?

Put very simply, copy optimisation is the process of rewriting copy with the aim of getting a particular response from your audience. It could be a single word or a whole user journey, but the purpose should be clear to you before you start.

I want to get more people to log in when they're browsing our site

Let’s say you’re an insurance company and you have a bookflow on your site. You have to get all kinds of information out of people before they can complete a quote request for your product, and you’re finding that most people get bored and drop out of the funnel on the 3rd screen of that bookflow.

I want to reduce the number of people leaving our online application unfinished

Copy optimisation is the process of looking analytically at what’s on that page and spotting pain points that might cause people to drop out. Being asked for things they weren’t expecting, for example, or having confusing instructions can dissuade a user from continuing their journey.

Maybe we need to explain why we need people to give their National Insurance numbers here

Next, you’d be looking to smooth out the process. To rewrite the page making instructions clearer, demystifying your intentions, reassuring people that they’re safe and finding any way possible to make it easier to move through a process.

It’s a real crafting process of hypothesising, writing, rewriting and then testing the new copy to see how it performs. With patience, you should start to build up a picture of how your audience responds to different motivations.

8 places to get started

To get started, look for what you can control and what you want to improve, and start trying a few copy optimisations of your own. From quick-and-dirty to super-strategic, the sooner you start getting results, the sooner you can prove the good work you’re doing.

Basically, anywhere there’s copy and a clear action you want someone to take, you’ve got the opportunity to optimise. Common places to try include:

  1. Button copy
  2. Email subject lines
  3. Sign-up forms
  4. Bookflows
  5. Shopping baskets
  6. FAQs
  7. Calls to action
  8. Feedback forms

3 signs you’ve picked a good test site

Not sure you’re starting in the right place? If it meets these criteria, try it anyway. You never know what you might find out.

1. You can isolate the copy
There’s no point rolling out some new copy to test at the same time as design changes, new functionality or any other on-page alterations. You’re looking to make sure you can definitely attribute any changes in your analytics to what you’ve done to the copy.
 
2. There’s just enough risk
If you want to get good results, you’ve got to take at least a minor risk. Pick something visible, something high-traffic where you’ll be able to see results relatively quickly.
 
3. You have a clear point of conversion
Choose copy that has a clear call-to-action. This is why buttons, clickthroughs, help text and form copy are great opportunities. You can clearly see a before and after of what has and hasn’t done what you need.