In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike interviews Lianna Patch, a conversion copywriter about how to write copy for your homepage. Some of the topics include the basic process for crafting a homepage, how much time to spend on copy, and common mistakes.
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Mike: In this episode of Startups For The Rest of Us, I’m gonna be talking to Lianna Patch about how to craft your homepage. This is Startups For The Rest of Us Episode 373. Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Lianna: I’m Lianna.
Mike: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How you doing this week, Lianna?
Lianna: I am doing fabulously. Enjoying lots of chocolate and probably too much wine with my family for Christmas. How about you?
Mike: I did not realize there was a ‘too much wine’ level.
Lianna: I actually tweeted about this this morning because I was sitting with my laptop at the kitchen table and I said, “Oh I have to record a quick video.” My dad grabbed an open box of wine and was like, “Well, just in case you need a prop.” I was like, “Oh, either my branding is really good or I should seek therapy.”
Mike: Well, who knows. I’m not sure which side of the fence to fall on right there. I think that’s a dangerous area that we’ll just kind of avoid at the moment.
Lianna: Let’s do it.
Mike: For the listeners who are not familiar with Lianna, Lianna Patch is a conversion copywriter and also an improv comedian who helps businesses inject humor and personality into their messaging. She is the founder of punchlinecopy.com. She also runs snapcopy.co. She’s worked with companies like Copy Hackers and Autopilot. She also spoke at Unbounce, their Call To Action Conference last year. She’s gonna be speaking at MicroConf Growth Edition this year. Just wanted to say welcome to the show, Liana. Is there anything that I missed in there?
Lianna: No, it sounds really cool when you say stuff like that about me. I might just get you to record all my intros.
Mike: Thanks. The reason that I wanted to have you on the show today was to talk a little bit about crafting copy on homepages. This is kind of directly relevant to the stuff that I’m working on with Bluetick. But, I also think that you have a very unique insight on a lot of this stuff. I wanted to dive right into that and put in front of you the very first question that probably comes to mind which is what’s the first thing somebody should do when they’re kind of preparing to build the first version of their homepage or even if they’re just doing a website redesign? What should they keep in mind when they’re doing that?
Lianna: The first thing to keep in mind is what you need your homepage to do. We have this idea of homepages as the place where your visitors land. There’s no slash, there’s no landing page after the URL. It has to appeal to probably multiple different types of visitors that you’re gonna get. It has to get them to the place on your site that more specifically addresses their needs as quickly and effectively and clearly as possible.
When you’re starting to either build a homepage from scratch or redesign your current messaging, you have to start with your visitors. Who are they? Are they all the same kind of target person or are there different types of visitors? If you run an ecommerce store, maybe you have different shopper demographics. If you’re a software startup founder, maybe you have different buckets of users coming from different industries who want to use different features.
You have to start with knowing about that audience and knowing how they describe what they’re looking for and you also, on the flip side, have to know what your unique value proposition is. I can talk a little more about that. I know I just sort of went on for a little while.
Mike: Sure. Why don’t we dive into some of those things because, I think, the one thing that’s probably most confusing for people is honing in on the message that you should give to people when they show up. Because, a lot of times, people don’t necessarily know exactly who’s coming to their page or they’re trying to use it as a landing page. If you’ve got a very early product, you don’t have a lot of content. One of the issues is trying to figure out what do I put on that homepage? Who am I talking to?
Lianna: Right. The very first thing any homepage needs is that top message, probably above the “fold” on the page. The value proposition where you very clearly explain what your product or service does. If you have competitors, why you’re different than your competitors so that people know exactly where you stand and why they should choose you. It’s not a place to be saying, “Welcome to our site.” Because that’s sort of a waste of that real estate.
It’s more of a place to say, “This is X product for Y type of person who wants to solve Z problem.” You can be very specific and speak to what problem your product or service is gonna solve for that reader. They know immediately why they’re reading it.
Mike: When you’re crafting that unique value proposition, it sounds to me like – is there a formula that you can follow for, it’s not even a call to action, but the headline there like, “It’s X for so and so.” “Airbnb for this people,” or, “Stripe for this other group of people.” Obviously, you don’t wanna use exactly that and you probably don’t wanna put either competitors or other companies in there but is there a formula or something along those lines that you can use to illustrate it to people?
Lianne: That’s a really good one and a straightforward one. The insert what you do for insert who you serve and then you have sort of an optional place in the formula at the end for insert problem solved or pain alleviated. A payment solution for solo freelancers who wanna spend fewer hours doing accounting. You’re doing some of this work with Bluetick honing on how to message that differentiation because there’s some people who do some of what you do and you do some of what they don’t do. Sometimes, when you’re working on this research you can get those insights from your customers or from your prospects as they describe to you what they’re looking for. You can just swipe that language right from them if you do that research.
Mike: What are some of the other ways that you can gather research? If somebody’s early on in a product and they don’t necessarily have a lot of data from those people, are there other sources that they can go to like other websites that they can try and either buy information outright? I’ve heard people saying if you’re doing sales on Amazon, for example, obviously going through and reading what the reviews are, on Amazon is a great way to do it because you can look at competitor’s products. You’d see the exact language that people are using. But, if you’re very early on, you don’t necessarily have that. Are there other ways to gather that information?
Lianne: Great! Yeah, there are. Like you said, Amazon review mining is great even if you don’t have a product with reviews. If there are products who you know you’d be competing with, you can go through those reviews and see what people are saying and sort of start noticing if there are any patterns in the types of problems that people are having or what they’re looking for. Same thing goes for G2, for software products, G2 crowd is a good place to go through competitor reviews and also your own reviews.
If you don’t have an audience at all, you wanna interview people who you think would be your audience. Good way to do that is, there’s no way around it, just getting them on the phone if you can for 10 minutes, or better yet a video call, asking them some questions about their pain around whatever problem you’re trying to solve because they may not know that they have pain or they may not know that it is a pain that might just seem like an annoyance to them. You have to get them to talk about this problem in multiple different ways until you find a way where you could hear the emotion in their voice and you know you’ve hit on a problem and then you listen to the words they’re using.
Talking to who you think your prospects are is a great way to both a, validate your business idea if you’re just starting up, and b, understanding how to message that so they understand what you do.
Mike: After you’ve gotten the, I’ll say just the headline in place, is there a structure that you should follow for the rest of your homepage or should you focus more on the broad strokes view of what the website is? Because I think, there’s a couple of different directions you can go there. You can have a single page for your homepage that kind of does everything or you can split your website up into a bunch of different pages and then link back and forth between some of them.
One of the classic example is just having a call to action right in that hero area or the headline where they click a button and it’s ‘Take A Tour’, then there’s also things like testimonials. You explain a little bit more about what the product does or maybe you take them over to a survey or trying to get them on a mailing list. Is there a general structure that people should follow or is it really just much more dependent on how much content you have to put in and how much time and effort you have?
Lianna: I think the thing that it depends on most is how many different user types you’re gonna have visiting. If you have a single type of user, your homepage is basically a landing page. It can have one focus which every landing page should, just one single call to action. But if you have multiple types of users, and you’re gonna have dedicated landing pages for each of those users, then you need to help people find where they’re going as quickly as possible.
If I have three types of visitors and I know from doing research that 60% of my visitors are looking for apples, and 30% are looking for strawberries, and only 10% are looking for grapes, I might focus 60% of my page on apples, and make sure that the messaging, especially close to the top where most people will be scrolling, is apples, and then supplement that a little bit down the page with strawberries, and then, wherever the grape people end up, there’s a little bit of messaging for them. But we’re appealing to either the largest group of customers or the highest value. Maybe people spend more on apples than they spend on strawberries or grapes.
I don’t know why I went with fruits for this analogy but no one’s buying fruit on the internet. But that’s one way to do it. Splitting it up by the number of customers in each group. You can also segment or structure your page depending on the different products that you have and their popularity or what you wanna sell. If you want Product B to be more popular than Product A, you might position it higher up the page or spend more time explaining Product B to give it a little more chance to shine. But basically, if you have more than one focus on the homepage, it’ll behoove you to get people where they’re going, where you can give them more information about that specific thing that you offer versus giving them all the info on the homepage.
That’s one thing that I see people do a lot. They say, “Okay, we have this whole website. We have five pages and we need a link to every single page in some section on the home page.” You scroll down and you can get to the about page from the homepage. You can get to case studies. You can get to contact. You might not need all of those things on there especially if you have a top nav which you probably do.
If you’re not sure how to structure the page, this is something I often recommend, just put a little pop-up poll on the page and I always recommend Hotjar. It’s called a website poll. If it seems like someone is staying on the page or they’re scrolling up and down, and they’re looking for something, you can time this to appear after 30 seconds or so and just ask what brought you here today or what are you looking for on this page or is there something missing. Then, especially if you have lots of traffic, you’ll start to get a sense of what people are looking for and they’ll tell you how to structure that page.
Mike: One of the things that you mentioned there is the idea of focusing the content, the messaging there on what the majority of the traffic that comes to your site is. If it’s for apples as you pointed out, that’s 60% for apples, then put 60% of the content aimed at people who are there for apples. Is there a danger associated with that where the reason that you end up with that traffic is because you’ve got so much content there versus if you were to switch it, let’s say, gear it for oranges, for example, isn’t it possible – how would you find out that isn’t the reason that people are coming?
Lianna: Yeah, I think it can be sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we position ourselves as being the place to go for apples (also, maybe oranges, strawberries, and grapes) then you can start to think that your whole customer base is apples. There are ways to, throughout the page, indicate that, “Hey, if you’re here for strawberries or grapes or whatever, we have stuff for you too.” You just sort of subjugate that messaging throughout. You don’t have to ignore those people but people do read so if you make sure to appeal to them maybe in a less visual or less obvious way, they’ll find those pieces and they’ll go where they need to go.
Mike: We talked a little bit about the basic structure of the site itself and a little bit about the page. When you’re focusing on the messaging specifically for the homepage, is there a guideline for how much time you’re spending creating the initial copy for it? Obviously, there’s a difference between when you’re redesigning the page or you’re just changing small sections of it but if you’re building something let’s say from scratch, how much time should you be spending on that? Could you measure it in hours? Could you you measure it in days? What sorts of rules of thumb could people use as developers? Because obviously, most of our audience is developers, it is not something they’re gonna have a lot of experience with. What should they think of in terms of building that?
Lianna: I think if you’re thinking about how much time to spend, spend the bulk of your time on the research, making sure that you have the right messages down. When you actually go to craft the copy, you should be able to pull from the research, and use the same phrases that you’ve heard from your customers or your prospects. Some parts of the copy will write themselves. When you’re reading through the page, you already have the structure, and you have a few spots filled in with the messages from your research.
You’re looking to write a copy that creates a flow down the page. You don’t have to psych yourself out about it. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a copywriter. As long as you are writing for your audience, and for your reader, and you’re writing in language that is centered around them, second person voice, ‘you are here because this is what we can do for you’, that kind of thing, you don’t have to spend weeks on it.
I think there’s no hard and fast rule about how much time “should take” but when it feels done, it’s probably done. What I like to do is when I get to a place where a draft feels done, I put it aside for a day or two, and I come back to it and read it again. Because if you stare at something, especially if you try to just bang it all out in one day, you can’t see either mistakes or areas for improvement that you’d be able to see with a quick look a day or two later. However much time you spend on the homepage copy, just give yourself a day or two, and then look at it again later, and you’ll fix a few last things.
Mike: Part of it is about inserting these artificial delays in between. It’s not about spend X number of hours on it. It’s spend some time on it and then make sure that you insert some artificial delay and then come back to it so that you get the fresh point of view after having some time off.
Lianna: Yeah. Because your brain is gonna be chewing on those things especially if you’ve gone through the research and you’re thinking about how your readers are gonna be interpreting this page. You might have a brain wave like, “Oh, actually, this headline isn’t the best way to explain this part of the product. Instead, we should say it like this.” Sometimes, you just need a little bit of cognitive processing time.
Mike: When you’re looking through these, whether it’s the initial walkthrough or you go through the process of revisiting them, what are some of the most common mistakes that you see people making on either the copy itself for the homepage or the design itself?
Lianna: Yeah. We’ve actually touched on a couple of these. The first, I would say, and I can’t believe this is still a thing, where you get to the site and the homepage says, “Welcome to blank.” You’re just like, “What? I know that I’m here. I clicked on a link or I typed in the URL to get here. I did this on purpose.” That’s a waste of space. That’s the opportunity where you have to grab your reader and say,”Here’s exactly what you’re here for.” That’s a huge missed opportunity.
The other mistake we touched on was trying to cram everything in the kitchen sink onto the page thinking that you have to have a link to every other page on your site on the homepage just in case. Instead, you should focus on probably the top three or top four most popular areas of your site, and let people who are more determined to dig do that digging in the top nav with some smaller subjugated messaging.
In terms of design mistakes from a conversion perspective, stock photos are the thing that I see just killing trust all over the place. I know it’s not easy to get real photos especially if you’re a startup and you have a small marketing budget but if you can, invest in less obvious stock photos or even avoid them altogether and take your own photos with an iPhone. That’ll go such a long way toward building trust.
Mike: I like the idea of using “less obvious stock photos”.
Lianna: Yeah. There are lots of sites out there that are geared toward that. Death to the Stock Photo’s one of them. Unsplash is around. They’re all free but if you’re going to Getty images and picking that photo of people in business suits standing around a conference table staring at an empty legal pad, then that’s just immediately gonna tell your reader that you’re not a real company, you can’t be trusted.
Mike: You did mention the idea of having three or four different main links that you focus on to take people to other pages, should those be things that you focus on in terms of trying to allow the people to self-select or are you trying to give them a story and lead them through? Because there’s a difference between trying to lead them through your website versus allowing them to self-select what things they’re the most interested in.
Lianna: Yeah, I tend to not wanna lead anybody on a journey. I want them to get where they’re going as fast as possible. The idea of self-selecting is a really good one for the homepage. We haven’t specifically talked about that, but you could say,”If you know that you have these three customer types, X, Y and Z or apples, strawberries, and oranges or grapes.” Whatever we said, you could even make it very explicit and say, “I’m a person who’s looking for oranges or I am person X or I am person Z.” Allow them to click a button that says, “Yes, this is me.” Then you take them straight to that landing page.
The copy around that section can give a little bit more information about what they’ll find when they go that landing page. But having that phrasing especially in the first person voice, the, “This is me. Yes, this is it.” Allows them to mentally confirm, “Okay, yes. I’m identifying with this and this is where I need to go.”
Mike: That’s kind of what we did with the MicroConf website where you browse the microconf.com and right there, right at the top it says, “World’s biggest conference for the world’s smallest self-funded software companies.” Then you’ve got an option. There’s two buttons there. One says, “click here for growth edition” and the other one says, “click here for starter edition.” That’s kind of the tactic we took with that because we really want people to kind of self-select in between those two groups. It’s a very definitive line between them. It’s not as if there’s a lot of overlap between them, I’d say.
Lianna: Yeah and I like this because obviously, your UVP is very clear. It’s a conference for the world’s smallest self-funded software companies. Then right away, you give people who know what they need the choice to learn more. If they don’t know, they can just keep scrolling and immediately they have ‘which MicroConf should I attend’ answered for them.
Mike: Are there other ways that you can think of to provide some sort of a self-selection option for people? Because I think you do wanna at least provide some ability for them to say, “Hey, I’m in this particular group.” I think most products have more than one group of people who would use them. Whether it’s sales executives and developers, for example, or I guess, there’s probably a very little overlap there. If it’s a project management software or time tracking or there’s lots of different pieces of software where related groups use them. Whether it’s founders or small agencies. How do you go about figuring out how to present that?
Lianna: You can describe, like you were just saying, by job role. If you know some of the major types of job roles that your users are, like software developers, sales executives. You can also allow them to self-select by pain, “My biggest challenge is publishing something every week,” “My biggest challenge is following up with my leads,” or “My biggest challenge is eating a popsicle.”
I’m not coming up with good comparisons right now but those are the two flip sides of the same coin. They’re saying either I am this type of person or I have this type of problem. You either segment them by role or by problem that they’re having which will obviously connect to a page that tells them more about how you’re gonna solve that specific problem for them, no matter what role they’re in. Does that make sense?
Mike: Yeah, it totally does. I think that’s a good example of one type of call to action. What you can focus on is allowing people to self-select but I think there’s a lot of other ones that come to mind that people will, I’ll say, try to slam all into the same page. For example, there’s things like putting people on email lists or getting people to take a tour or click here to sign-up or to start a free trial. How do you decide which ones you should focus on, specifically for the home page?
Lianna: If you have, for instance, a content offer that you geared to be applicable to multiple different types of visitors or users like an email series, then you can offer that to everybody. It depends on where in their stages of awareness most of your visitors are. Whether you’re gonna get them to sign up or take a tour.
If the visitors that are coming to your homepage don’t really know that they’re having an issue, they’re not really sure what you do yet or that you have competitors or why they should pick you, getting them to sign up for a live one-on-one demo is gonna be a really tough sell because there’s so much education that you have to do there. You can’t really do that on the homepage. Versus asking them to get on your email list or offering them something quick and free like a one page PDF is a much lower risk CTA.
You might say, “Get on my list and I’ll send you five emails to improve your sales process,” which might sound familiar to you, Mike. It just depends on where the bulk of those visitors are in their “customer journey” which is a phrase that I hate to use but is applicable here.
Mike: For the homepage, should you be focusing much more on things that are, I’ll say, less of a commitment for the person, especially if you have a very small website. You only have maybe two or three pages tops. Shouldn’t you be focusing more on the things that move people as far along as possible, as quickly as possible, or do you really need to have those extra pages that explain a lot more about what the product does?
Lianna: It just depends on whether that visitor’s gonna be ready to sign up to hear from you or to schedule something with you or whether they need more information first. That’s something that you can only know by watching your quantitative metric, so your Google Analytics to see where people are falling off the page or when your pop-up comes up, everyone leaves. But, in general, if you have more information to give, even if it’s just a two-page site, you’re better off asking them to visit that next page that more specifically meets their needs, and then asking them to take that next step. Whether it’s joining your list or scheduling a demo or whatever it is than doing it right from the homepage.
Mike: Got it. Because I’ve seen people that have a button right on the page that says, “Click here to sign-up.” I’ve seen that as a recommendation throughout the years. It almost seems like that’s too much too quickly even if you only have a two-page website. It’s really hard to get somebody to visit your webpage and then immediately say, “Oh, yes. This is for me,” and they click, and they go to sign-up. Because they wanna see more about it. They wanna get that level of trust and I don’t feel like it’s there yet with the homepage.
Lianna: It really depends. If you have your users super segmented or you’ve honed in on your targeting and you know exactly who’s coming to your site and you’ve built this, whatever it is, this piece of content or this email series, just for them, they might be ready to sign-up. But if you have a ton of different types of traffic coming and they’re “colder”, they need more education, explanation, you might wanna wait a little bit longer before you ask them for something.
Mike: If somebody’s on your mailing list, you send them a link that says, “Hey, click here to buy such and such.” They’re clicking on that link, they go over to that web page, and it’s not even your homepage at that point. It’s a landing page that is kind of designed with that particular person in mind, in that stage of the buying process versus with a homepage anybody could be visiting and you don’t have as much information about them even if you have done all the measurement and stuff. There’s still a lot of other people who could come there. If it’s the first time that they’re seeing it, they just don’t have that level of trust. It’s kind of what I was saying about you can’t jump that far that quickly I think on the homepage.
Lianne: Yeah, the other thing that we haven’t touched on yet but which I hope has sort of become clear is that you don’t wanna write your homepage for everybody in the world. Ideally, you should know pretty much who your visitors will be or who you want them to be, and then write for those people. You’re not trying to get every single person on your email list. You’re trying to get Mike and Rob and Lianna. Because we’re all interested in software development and that’s kind of your niche.
It’s okay to be more specific and that’s where clearly stating your value proposition right at the top of the page. As soon as people arrive, this is what we are, this is who we serve, and this will benefit you if you are this. That becomes so important. Because that tells people right away when they land a page, “Oh okay. This is for me or this isn’t for me.” You only want the people who say, “Okay, this is for me.”
Mike: What are your thoughts on using video on the homepage? Where there’s a short demo of a walkthrough, or just the founder of the company standing there and talking about of what the product is or video of the founder themselves talking to the person about the problems they’re trying to solve?
Lianna: I love video pretty much anywhere because there are just some people who don’t like to read, that doesn’t mean they’re gonna be bad customers or bad visitors, they just don’t wanna read. If you have content on the page that you wanna get across but you know some people would rather watch a video, put that in the video.
If you are a single founder or a smaller company, that’s a great way to humanize yourself. Just say, “There’s a real person behind this site. We’re not using stock photos and more than that, we are here talking directly to you explaining exactly what we do and how we can help you.” Video’s always a plus. I’m trying to think of a situation of which it wouldn’t be, maybe if you’re crematorially, don’t make a video. That would be terrible, sick burn.
In terms of where in the page it should be, we often see them in the hero section of the top, again because it’s a chance to say, “Real quick, here’s what we do. Click to find out.” Sometimes, see them toward the bottom too because if someone had scrolled that far, they might be looking for more information. A video might just be the thing to tip them into taking action, whether that action is signing up for the list or scheduling a demo or clicking through to the next page they need to see, that can be the last little nudge they need.
Mike: One question that comes to mind for me is how do you know when something is good enough? When you’ve got, I guess, the basic structure in place or some basic headlines or outlines of what the subtitles and stuff would be. How do you know that which you have is going to be good enough to be put out there or should you just kind of throw it out there and see what sticks and start taking measurements and stuff?
Because the trouble I think that a lot of people find themselves in is especially when they’re launching a product, they don’t enough traffic to really do any sort of really analysis like AB testing, “Oh, we had this before and now we’ve got this.” If you go from 500 visitors to 600 in a month, it’s almost meaningless. What do you there? How do you know that it’s good enough to put out there and that you shouldn’t keep iterating on it?
Lianne: Before you publish anything, you should be going through it from a structure perspective, that’s the first editing level, and this is actually the start. This is the substance of my talk at CTA Conf this year. Go through it on the structure level to make sure it’s hitting all the points your readers need to hear. Go through it on a paragraph level to make sure that the copy itself is easy to read and parse, you want it skimmable, you don’t want giant chunks of copy.
There’s a lot of formatting you can do to make things more easy to read which cuts down obviously on cognitive load for your readers. Then when you get to the line level, you’re looking to cut out anything that isn’t doing a job. Every sentence’s job is to lead to the next job. You wanna cut out anything that seems fluffy, anything that you know is just kind of in there for you because you wanted it or it’s a darling. You have to clear your darlings, as we always say.
Then you’re looking for what my good friend, Amy Harrison, calls umbrella terms. That’s where you had a bunch of super specific descriptors and you squeeze them into one. You end up with some adjectives like cutting-edge or first class or world’s best and when you think about it, they don’t actually mean anything. If you notice any of those cliché phrases sneaking into your copy, you wanna replace those with more specific, more accurate, and descriptive adjectives that give people a sense of what you do or who you are.
That’s the kind of last defense on a line level and that’s kind of what I do when it comes to punching up copy with humor. If you want, we can talk a little bit about why humor works in copy and where it should be used and that kind of thing.
Mike: Yeah, I’d love to. It’s definitely an area that I think allows people to be a little bit more expressive on their websites just because you get to inject your own personality without making the person who’s reading the copy feel like it’s a corporation. Because most people listening to this are probably running small businesses. You want at least some level of personality to come through, but at the same time you don’t wanna overdo it in such a way that it seems like such a small company that how could they possibly trust you.
Lianna: Right, yeah. There’s definitely a balance to strike. But I think, erring on side of being human, and having a personality, and being warmer does build that trust much more than trying to come off as a bigger company, and then people see through you which makes it seem like you’re posturing, and you’re kind of fake.
When it comes to deciding where to strike that balance, you want to ask yourself again how you want your reader to feel because it’s always about them. You wanna ask what’s the sense of humor of my business or my brand? Are we witty? Are we highbrow witty or are we sort of goofy and silly? Are we borderline absurd or offensive or crass? Probably, it’s none of those, because you don’t wanna offend people but different companies have different personalities. You have to figure out what feels right and natural to you. That would be your jumping off point for working in humor to your copy.
When it comes to actually doing that on a sentence level, one of my favorite things to do is use humor for comparisons. A lot of times, we lose specificity on the line level, so we’ll see a piece of copy that says, “This is the worst feeling in the world.” That’s kind of specific. People can sort of mentally apply that to themselves and know what that feels like, but that’s a chance to insert humor and specificity which is a key tenet of high converting copy, being specific. Instead of the worst feeling in the world, you might say, “It feels like showing up to school on picture day with no pants and spaghetti sauce all over your face.” Or something much more specific, and weird, and out there, and absurd.
You get that little jolt of surprise when someone gets to the end of the sentence and sees that descriptor. It keeps them interested. Hopefully, it makes them laugh a little bit and it gives them a much more concrete image to grab onto than just saying, “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”
Mike: Yeah. Giving them a concrete image is kind of what I was thinking. I was thinking giving them a visual thing to kind of key-off as opposed to like, “the worst feeling in the world” that’s going to be different for each person. But everybody can kind of visualize what showing up to picture day with no pants and spaghetti on your face is gonna be like.
Lianna: I don’t know why I grabbed those two. I think just because my niece was eating spaghetti earlier today and I was like, “Wow, you are a mess.” Obviously that’s the place to dig into your research again. Because if you know what the worst feeling in the world feels like to your specific customer base, then use that as an image. Play on that.
Mike: I think that kind of goes back to your previous guidance about figuring out how to evaluate the copy at a line level and get rid of some of those filler words like saying actually or really bad or takes a long time and things like that. You can get rid of those and use that specific example.
Lianna: Be a little bit hyperbolic, like you said, takes a long time. How about something like ‘takes a million years’. Obviously, it doesn’t take a million years, but it’s the casual cadence that we tend to use in our conversations. People tend to exaggerate. When website copy does that too, it flips that switch of, “Oh, a real person wrote this who understands my problems.”
Mike: Awesome. We’re kind of running a little bit short on time here but is there anything that you wanted to add or leave the listeners with?
Lianna: The only thing I would say is that if you are now taking a critical look at your homepage copy, and you’re thinking, “I could be more specific with my value proposition where we explain who we are or I could be more specific in getting people to self-select in each call to action,” then you’re probably right. Take a look and see if there’s anything you can change and give it a try because you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Mike: Awesome. Well, if people have questions for you, what’s the best way for them to follow up with you?
Lianna: They can find me on Twitter, @punchlinecopy. I am relentlessly on Twitter. It’s kind of bad.
Mike: I assume that’s probably the one and only best place to find you.
Lianna: It’s a pretty good place to find me. I’m at my website. I’m on Facebook, sort of, but Twitter is the best place for sure.
Mike: Got it. Okay, great. Thanks for coming on the show, Lianna. I really appreciate it.
Lianna: Thanks for having me, Mike. This is super fun.
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