Day 12: Your compass for persuading visitors

What do you write on a page and in what order? How long should the page be to convert?

These are questions we often hear in our teardowns and it’s understandable.

After you’ve done all the research, you find yourself with a pile of documents and no idea of how to put all of it together.

Messaging hierarchy is a term used to define what your copy should talk about and how it should be prioritized on the page to convince your reader. Thankfully you’ve already done the hard work of researching your target customer.

First, it’s important to know what your reader is thinking and expecting when they get to the page.

  • Are they experiencing a serious problem and wants to find the solution right now?
  • Are they aware that there are solutions out there or do you need to tell them and introduce yours as the best?
  • Do they know you and your product/service already? Are they comparing you with somebody else?
  • How did they get to your website? Did they click on an Ad or just by searching for something on Google?
    And what kind of messaging did they stumble on while getting here?

If you’ve asked the right questions during your customer interviews or in your surveys, you’ll likely have the answers to these questions handy. Figuring out what you need to tell your visitors to meet them where they are is critical if you want them to stay on your site.

We’ll look deeper at how to match visitors’ expectations in one of the next posts.

Second, you have to narrow down on what you want your reader to do on this page.

Having worked on your one goal in the previous email, you should be halfway there. Now it’s time to turn that goal into the actual Calls To Action you’ll use on this page. Let’s say you’re working on your homepage:

  • Based on what your reader was thinking and expecting when they got here, what do they need to do to find the solution to their problem? Do they need to find a product and add it to cart? Do they need to learn more about your service and then get in touch? Do they need to get a clearer idea about your product and sign up for a free trial? etc. Answer these questions to find out what your primary CTA should be.
  • Then brainstorm possible alternative paths in case the user needs more convincing (secondary CTAs). What objections might they have before embarking in their journey with you? What anxieties and worries?

Bonus: consider the difference between Calls To Action and Calls To Value. A CTA uses copy focused on accomplishing an action like [Get started], a CTV’s copy is focused on the benefit or value the user will get, like [Free up 3 hours a day]. Keep CTAs for the top and end of the page (users might already be convinced or they have been convinced by the copy) and CTVs for the middle (users need persuasion).

Third, jot down the “story arc” you’ll need the copy to follow.

Stories are persuasive and engaging tools. Sometimes it’s hard to see it, but great copywriting is always using storytelling to persuade. When it comes to your page, adopt the same mindset. Ask yourself:

  • How does the reader’s thinking need to change from when they get to the page to when they finish reading it? How should they feel about themselves, about your business and your product/service to be ready to buy?

If you want to dig deeper into the subject of storytelling, here’s a quick primer on the hero’s journey model, frequently used by copywriters to craft their messaging hierarchy.

Once you have the answers to these 3 main points, it’s time for the actual writing.

A good rule of thumb is to first divide the copy you need to write into two main areas. Matching (what users know and are thinking + what got them here) and convincing (your product/service’s value and how it solves the prospect’s problem). Then, keep the 10/90 rule in mind, where the initial 10% of the page should be destined to the matching and the remaining 90% to the convincing. This will give you a clearer idea for your layout.

Your copy should reflect a conversation where you answer their questions and anticipate their curiosities, anxieties and objections in a linear way.

A typical (and persuasive) flow for the conversation on a homepage might go something like this:

  1. What do you do?
  2. What’s in it for me? Why should I care?
  3. Do you have proof that it works? And do you know your stuff?
  4. How does it work exactly?
  5. How will my life/my business be better because of it?
  6. Should I really believe you? Why? And is there any risk?
  7. Ok, I believe you, what should I do now?

Consider the answer to each of these questions a section of your page and start filling in the details. Once you know what you’re gonna talk about on your page and in what order, it’s time to answer another big question…

Which comes first? Copy or design?

It’s a pretty well known fact in the industry, that copy should dictate design. However, when working fast and with multiple people, it’s tough to make the process effective.

What if the copywriter finishes his draft but then the designer has a hard time fitting the copy on the page because it’s super long? Usually it’s a never ending back and forth culminating in ugly compromises.

What we’ve found best is for the writer and designer/developer to work together from the start.

Here’s our process:

  1. The writer AND the designer get together to draft an outline. This is a simple, unstyled doc showing the sections the page will have and summarizing the content for each in a few lines (indicating a rough estimate of how many lines/sentences or paragraphs it will require).
  2. Once agreed on the content, the designer moves on to sketching a quick wireframe to showcase the layout of the page and of each section discussed.
  3. The copywriter gets to work and writes the first draft of the content.
  4. The designer adds the copy to the wireframe.
  5. Review and iteration until the final version.
  6. If everything looks good the designer then moves on to the actual hi-fi design and styling.

Even if you don’t have an in-house team who can do all of this, it’s helpful to know how you can talk about this stuff to freelancers when hiring and directing them, so keep it in mind.

Your homework:

Today, you’ll create an outline for the page you’re working on using the tips in this email. Define which sections you’ll include and what each section will talk about (roughly estimating in how many lines/paragraphs). Include the Calls To Action you’ll have on the page and where each should send the reader.