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The 3 copywriting principles we followed to 2x SweatBlock.com’s revenue

Start with a messaging hierarchy.

Be specific.

Use calls to value, not just calls to action.

Those are the 3 copywriting practices we put into play to optimize the copy on the home page of SweatBlock, a top-rated clinical-strength antiperspirant.

The result? A 108% lift in revenue.

Yup, our copy more than doubled revenue attributed to the home page.

Now, to be clear, when I see numbers like that, I’m as skeptical as the next person. Even I can’t believe copy is as powerful as it is. “Really? Just use specific phrasing and double my biz? Really??”

Yeah, I hear you. I too shake my head at the results, marvel at the numbers, look for holes in the data if only because I can’t really, truly believe that words can do so much for businesses. Then I get an email like this: 

I passionately believe that content is the most important part of CRO but it’s also the most neglected part of websites.

That’s from a conversion optimization expert at Google.

The smartest people in CRO believe in copy.

Yet, in practice, it seems we’re all decidedly skeptical. To our detriment. After all, the data’s good. And the entire world of marketing is based on effective messaging. And it’s terribly easy to believe when the wrong message tanks conversions in a test – so why do we find it so hard to believe that the right message, put the right way, can and will increase conversion rates?? (For a strong product. <– discussion unto itself)

All that to say: Allow yourself to suspend disbelief as you read through how we used li’l ol’ words, placed in the right order, to optimize the copy for SweatBlock’s home page. See why we did it. See how we did it. So you can do it, too, as part of your next round of experiments.

First, Here Are the 2 Home Page Variations We Tested

The SweatBlock home page is an ecommerce one-pager.

That means it acts as a sales page and website all in one.

Which is why it’s so damn long. And which means it’s gotta do a lot.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the control and variation B:

Copy Hackers copy for Sweatblock - winner and control

Our copy brought in more than 2x the sales.

With the help of Sam Woods of Response Copy,* we wrote Variation B, starting with a new messaging hierarchy.

We started by eliminating the “muddle” with the help of a simple messaging hierarchy

What goes on the page?

This is the #1 question you need to answer before you start writing a page.

Now try answering it.

What goes on your home page?

Kinduva broad question, right? It’s so broad, it breeds unhelpful answers. Perhaps you’d answer with, “As much as is necessary to convince the prospect.” Nice consulting-y answer, but not that helpful when it comes to brass-tacks kinda work. So perhaps then you might find yourself jumping to answers like “a hero section”, “a headline”, “the calls to action”, “an explainer video” and “images.”

But what goes in and in-between all that stuff?

When we’re trying to figure out what goes on a page, we’re really looking for our messaging hierarchy: the order in which to organize on-page messages to convince the reader. To arrive at the hierarchy, we need to start with the right questions:

  1. What is our visitor thinking when she lands on this page?
  2. What do we want her to do by the time she finishes with the page?
  3. How does her thinking need to change in the space between the start and the “end” of the page? What do we need to show and tell her to move her from where she was pre-page to where we want her to be now?

The answer to Q3 will dictate what goes on the page and how long it needs to be.

Now here’s how I like to think about the general layout of a page and, accordingly, its messaging hierarchy:

The 10/90 Messaging Layout Rule

Messaging hierarchy on the page

Roughly the top 10% of the page is all about matching 1) the visitor’s stage of awareness and 2) the message(s) that led her here.

The rest of the page is all about convincing her. To that end, I’ve found it useful to answer these questions, in this order, when writing a page. (Written from the POV of the prospect. Imagine answering one question for your prospect before she moves onto the next question.)

  1. What do you do?
  2. Okay. Why should I care?
  3. Am I alone in caring – or do others (preferably others like me) care?
  4. You’re starting to win me over. But I’m skeptical. So show me: how do you do what you say you do?
  5. And if I believe you and your process / solution, how will my life improve?
  6. I’d like to believe you, but first tell me: why is it safe for me to believe you?
  7. Okay, let’s say I believe you. Now what?

Those questions are not perfect and they do not work in that order 100% of the time. But they’re a solid starting point. Because they create a very simple conversation.

(How much or how little you write to answer each of those questions will vary. So please don’t try to “science the shit” out of your copywriting – it’s formulaic to a point, and then comes, well, art.)

When we first looked at the Control version of SweatBlock.com’s home page, we couldn’t quite follow its hierarchy. A didn’t lead to B, B didn’t lead to C. It was a bit like trying to read a story when the chapters in the book have all been shuffled around.

  • The answer to “what do you do?” kept reappearing.
  • The answer to “do others care?” popped up at least three separate times, seemingly without rhyme or reason, seemingly just because there was some good social proof handy.
  • Risk-reducers were waiting around every corner, even when there seemed no need to reduce risk at that point.

The Control felt like the old saying: “Every story has a beginning, a muddle and an end.”

It had too much muddle.

So we drafted a hierarchy that would better eliminate the muddle, giving every single message on the page real purpose. We used the 7 questions I just showed you to create the following order of messages, with a little extra built in for the top 10%. Here’s how that went down:

>> Matching (in top 10%)

Sweatblock home page optimization

>> What is SweatBlock… why should I care… and do others like me care?

Sweatblock home page 2

>> How do you do what you say you do?

Sweatblock show and tell copywriting

>> If I believe you, how will my life improve?

How will my life improve with Sweatblock?

>> Why is it safe for me to believe you?

Do others like me care? Copy on SB

>> Let’s say I believe you. Now what?

Now-what copywriting

Our copy intentionally moved along with the prospect, thinking like the prospect and anticipating their curiosities, objections and anxieties. Again, it merely tried to have a reasonable conversation with the prospect using these simple questions in this order:

  1. What do you do?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. Do others care?
  4. So how do you do what you say you do?
  5. And how will my life improve?
  6. Why is it safe for me to believe you?
  7. Let’s say I believe you. Now what?

(I’m repeating those Qs so you can write them down, BTW.)

The Control, on the other hand, jumped around, creating what feels like a pretty mad convo between the visitor and the page. If we map the Control messages against what they’re trying to say, we get this:

  1. What do you do?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. Why is it safe for me to believe you?
  4. And how will my life improve?
  5. Do others care?
  6. Why is it safe for me to believe you?
  7. And how will my life improve?
  8. So how do you do what you say you do?
  9. {Make me find my question in your FAQs}
  10. {How long does it last?}
  11. {Tell me again about the problem and the solution}
  12. Do others care?
  13. Let’s say I believe you. Now what?

Slightly chaotic, right?

A messaging hierarchy helped us minimize the Control’s sense of chaos.


avoid chaos! @copyhackers lists 7 questions to craft your messaging hierarchy
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From there, we turned vague copy into specific copy

Most copy online is entirely vague. It’s summarized. It’s abstracted. …Which makes it really hard to visualize or even understand.

This vague approach to copywriting is nobody’s fault. Getting specific can just seem… scary. What if you’re too specific and no one can relate? What if you’re specific the wrong way, leaving your prospects confused?

Those are perfectly valid questions and concerns. You don’t need me to tell you that – you know they are. But here’s the thing: in my experience, being vague just doesn’t work as well as being specific.

With that in mind, we turned SweatBlock’s summarized, vague-ish messages into specific copy. Compare them and check out our explanation below each set of before-and-afters:

fdsafdsafasdfa

To make the message more specifically tied to the visitor, we added “your” to the first line of the headline. Then we replaced the negative outcome statement (“Stop Embarrassment,” which is a summarized pain rather than a tangible one) with a tangible outcome: “wear what you want.” Finally, we added the line “just the dab of a towelette” to the subhead to help visitors visualize using the product.


add the word “you” or “your” to make your prospect feel spoken to, says @copyhackers
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How to rewrite a crosshead so it's specific

The Control crosshead was a rather typical sort of crosshead, one we refer to as “placeholder text” here at Copy Hackers. We replaced it with the answer to the question the Control was asking. That is, by the way, a really clean way to get specific with your copy: just answer the questions your old crossheads were asking.


try replacing questions in your copy with their answers, says @copyhackers
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fdsfdadafsa

It may seem like leading with an influencer’s name, as in the Control, is a no-brainer crosshead. But we hypothesized that, if prospects weren’t clicking to buy in the hero section – if they kept on reading – it may be that they were in a solution-aware or pain-/problem-aware stage. As such, they wouldn’t yet respond to persuasion techniques (like proof from authorities), which is great for helping to close people but not so great for getting them to care and connect in the first place. So we replaced the Control crosshead with a specific and even colorful statement about using SweatBlock.


rethink the way you’re messaging that killer piece of social proof you’ve got, says @copyhackers
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fdsafdsafdsa

“Sweat relief” is good… but the SweatBlock prospect, suffering from excessive sweating, doesn’t come to this page looking for “sweat relief,” does she? In a marketer’s head, sure, she wants sweat relief. But not in real life. In real life, she’s feeling tangible pains: sweating through her expensive clothes, filling her closet with boring dark clothes, shying away from high-fives and hugs. So we put those experiences on the page.

If you wanna learn more about how to get specific (and you certainly should), join me at Mozcon this September, where I’ll be presenting on How to Be Specific.

If you’d love me to test specificity on your site and present the findings at Mozcon (and in other places like this very blog), send Lance an email saying why, saying when and mentioning the split-testing tool you use.

And, finally, we optimized the buttons to include “calls to value”

YES!! BUTTONS MATTER!!

I get soooooooooooo tired of people at conversion conferences dissing button copy tests. No, a button may not do the heavy lifting of persuasion. But, yes, it does the heavy lifting of transporting the visitor through the funnel. If you optimized all the copy on your page – or any of the copy on your page – you’d be a fool not to optimize the button, too. And you’re no fool – no siree.

Depending on where your prospect is in the conversion funnel or path, you’re likely to want to choose from one of these two options for your button copy:

  1. Calls to value, where the button copy amplifies the value of moving forward
  2. Calls to action, where the button copy amplifies the action of moving forward

Here’s a call to value on Variation B for the SweatBlock home page:

Call to value button copy

And here’s a call to action on Variation B for the SweatBlock home page:

Call to action button copy

Now, how do you know which one to use when you’re writing copy?

For starters, you can use both on one page. As long as you’re focusing the visitor on a single goal, the button copy you use can range from value-focused to action-focused.

A call to value is best for people before they’ve decided to buy; it reinforces the value of the offering and works toward convincing the prospect.

A call to action is best for people once they’ve decided to buy; they already understand the value, so it’s time to stop selling and just make it as frictionless as possible for them to give you their email addy or credit card deets.

On the SweatBlock home page, we have the call to action “Order Now” in the header. It’s there for those visitors that have already decided to buy and just want to order now. That same CTA is repeated at the bottom of the page – it’s the last chance to buy.

The rest of the page features calls to value, like:

Sweat less. Live more. 

Why suffer? Get SweatBlock now

Control your sweat! Order now

Additionally, you may have noticed that Variation B has more buttons than Variation A / Control. If we were measuring the success of this test on click-throughs rather than paid conversions, then adding all those buttons would likely impact the results such that VB would win simply because there are more opportunities for people to click. (That’s one of the many tricky things about buttons – people love clicking them.) Thankfully, we measured based on paid conversions.

And the result of all that? Copy that brought in 108% more paid conversions than the Control did.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Variation B became the new Control for SweatBlock…

…and we decided to run another test against that winner.

Later this week, I’ll share with you the second test we ran, how we arrived at it, and how it performed. Did it win by a landslide? Did it sink like a brick?

You’ll find out. But here’s my challenge for you: Tell me (in bullets) what you’d do to optimize the winning copy, which I’m including again for you here…

SweatBlock variation B copy test

Leave your guesses and/or ideas as a comment.

If you nail it by guessing what 1 specific thing we did to optimize the second round of copy – and you just may if you’re familiar with Copy Hackers – we’ll give you, oh, say, a free spot in our upcoming 10x Emails course. Naturally you have to guess right before we publish the follow-up post.

(Valued at $997. Max 2 winners, so we’ll draw names if everyone guesses right. This challenge is not open to members of The Copywriter Mastermind 1 or 2, who’ve heard the skinny on this test.)

~jo 🙂

*Sam Woods was a copywriter for us when we ran SNAP Copy, of which SweatBlock was a client. Learn more about the new SNAP Copy here or about how to hire Sam Woods here.

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"The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad."
~ Salvador Dali

About Henry Lake

Over 16 years of Internet Marketing experience with focus on list building. Enjoy sharing ideas with other marketers.

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