Good copywriters follow well-established best practices, studying sites like this one to learn more techniques that pull a reader in and motivate action.
Great copywriters delve into the psychology of persuasion, and make sure their copy is presented with effective design to make it even more engaging.
But the best copywriters don’t stop there. They know that those are just the factors that get you started.
The best copywriters continue to radically improve their copy over time. They know how to create copy that works even when it defies common sense. They find the “magic words” in headlines that will never be revealed in any swipe file.
How do they do that?
It’s not a secret technique or some special knowledge they learn from a guru at the top of the mountain. The truth is, great copywriters use split testing to radically improve their copy over time.
You may have heard of split testing, but unfortunately not a lot of us actually understand it properly or use it for conversion rate optimization. (Kind of the way everyone’s a social media guru whether or not they actually have a clue about how social media really works.)
So what the heck is split testing?
Split testing is not a buzzword and it’s certainly not a fad.
It’s very popular among large Internet companies (Amazon, Groupon, Google, etc.). In fact, almost all of them conduct thousands (or even tens of thousands) of split tests to increase sales and conversion rates on their websites and landing pages.
They have been doing split testing for years because it is a simple, methodical way to increase online conversion rate.
The concept of split testing is quite simple:
In a split test, you create one or more variations of a landing page and then randomly split traffic amongst them. Meanwhile you measure which variation led to maximum conversion for the result that you were looking for. Adopt the better performing landing page. Rinse and repeat.
For example, if you have a landing page that sells a parrot training eBook, how do you decide which headline to use? Should you use Teach your parrot nifty tricks in 24 hours (version A)? Or should you use Your parrot speaks 20 words by tomorrow or your money back (version B)?
You could ask on twitter, and get hundreds of very knowledgeable guesses. But that’s all they would be.
To find out, you would simply create two versions of landing page using one of those headlines for each. Send 50% of your traffic to version A and 50% to version B, and observe which version converted better. (Since there are usually two versions involved, split testing is also known as A/B testing.)
What should I split test on a landing page?
The easy answer to an easy question: everything! You never know what might be most influential to your sales and conversions so you should split test all aspects of your landing page copy.
Asking what to split test isn’t really the right question, then.
The right question is: What should I test first?
You have to prioritize the most influential aspects of a landing page, the elements that tend to produce the biggest changes.
I am the founder of a split testing product called Visual Website Optimizer with thousands of users, which gave me the privilege of observing thousands of split tests and their results from a front-row seat.
That experience showed me some of the key elements (in order of importance) that you should test on your landing page:
- Headline (if you can test only one thing on your page, test your headline first)
- Call to action (should you have Buy Now or Add to Cart … or offer a free trial instead?)
- The product’s positioning
- Highlighting different benefits and features
- Length of copy (surprisingly, sometimes removing information on a page increases conversions)
- Video vs. text (for some sites text works better, for some video prompts action)
- Screenshots and other images (I can’t stress enough how important is it to split test different kinds of visuals you use on a landing page)
- Freebies (visitors may respond better to one kind of bonus or free offer when compared to others)
Let’s play a guessing game
If you are still skeptical about benefits of split testing, let’s play a small guessing game.
Following are some real world split testing case studies. Read the examples and then try to predict which version worked best. The answers are below — but try to resist the urge to peek.
Case Study #1
For a PPC landing page meant for list building, which of the following call-to-action buttons increased signups by 28%?
- Version A: “Watch the video”
- Version B: “Get Instant Access”
Case Study #2
For a product meant for local business owners called CityCliq, which of the following headlines increased conversions by 90%?
- Version A: “Businesses grow faster online!”
- Version B: “Online advertising that works!”
- Version C: “Get found faster!”
- Version D: “Create a webpage for your business”
Case Study #3
In another PPC landing page, which call-to-action link increased conversions to next step in funnel by 14%?
- Version A: “Read Sample of Book”
- Variation B: “Watch Video Preview”
- Variation C: “Watch my #1 Abs Exercise On Video”
Proof that you should be split testing your landing page now
Got your picks for each of the case studies above? Ok, now it’s time to reveal the answers:
- Case study #1: The “Watch the video” button converted 28% more visitors
- Case study #2: The “Create a webpage for your business” headline increased conversions by 90%
- Case study #3: The “Watch video preview” call to action improved conversions by 14%
How many out of three did you get right? Unless you have already read Visual Website Optimizer case studies (or Googled them) it’d be pretty hard for you to have guessed all three of them correctly. In fact, if you guess randomly there is only 4% chance that you will get all three of them correct.
Logic won’t get you to the best-converting copy. Knowledge of copywriting techniques will give you good ideas to test, but it can’t take you all the way there. Even experience won’t get it for you.
But split testing will.
About the Author: Paras Chopra is the founder of Visual Website Optimizer, the world’s easiest A/B split and multivariate testing tool. Used by 5000+ companies worldwide, it allows marketers and designers to create A/B split tests and put them live on their websites in less than 10 minutes. We offer a free 30-day trial account.