The Conversion Chronicles, resources for improving your online conversion rates

Can Web Copy Writers Learn From Direct Mail Marketing Techniques?


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Would you send a million letters costing tens of thousands to print and mail, in a direct marketing campaign, without testing the letter content first?

It's what many website owners do when they don't test and measure their own website copy and content then spend thousands on web marketing campaigns to drive traffic to their websites.

In a direct mail campaign the mailer knows based on test mailouts what to expect and therefore what his return on investment will be. They basically write, re-write and re-write until they have the content that gets the desired response. Many moons ago I used to work full time write for direct mailing
companies and the mailers would ask for 3 or 4 different versions of the same message and this was the reason. They tested each one with a short mailout (about 1000 per mailshot) and gauged response to find the best percentage.

So the direct mail marketer has a solid figure to work on. He knows if he spends figure 'a' on direct mailing he will get figure 'b' response. Why can't the same apply to website marketing?

We think it can. We tested this theory for 8 months and for the last 4 months have consistently been hitting the same percentage level (roughly give or take 0.5%) of conversion.

By defining your website goal and objective, experimenting with copy, content, persuasion, design, colour and architecture it is possible to predict what the response of your website conversion will be. In other words you can confidently predict how many people will do what you want them to do every month. Month after month. Easy? no, it takes a lot of work but it certainly is possible.

In a number of tests conducted on a website designed with web services for sale through a period of 8 months from January 2003 till August 2003, it was proved beyond doubt that a consistent level of conversion of new visitors can be achieved. Conversion Chronicles is the result of these tests, http://www.conversionchronicles.com.

It was found that:
1) Headlines can improve the click through of a page by up to 35%! Over two months on one page we tested the headline and looked to see how many more visitors moved onto another page. The first month with the headline "Just On Site, Improve the way you do business online" only 15% of readers went onto do another action and stayed on the page (reading presumably) more than 3 minutes.

With the headline "Do you know if your website is a success or a failure?" 50% completed another action and stayed on our website for more than 3 minutes. A terrific improvement when you consider it was only one line of text we changed. Ok, we think the content was pretty good anyway but the first headline was poor and so readers just immediately left rather than read.

2) Scan proofing greatly improves the chances of clickthough in your pages. By writing for a reader who scans rather than reads and making the key words appear in bold so that (if feasible) the bold words string together in a rough kind of sentence we found a similar increase in response to the page. There was again over a 30% improvement by scan proofing the text. If you w ant to find out more about scan proofing subscribe, and get the free e-book. There is a section dedicated to it.

3) Active voice writing (referring to the reader as you and your) dramatically improve the rate of readership and conversion. When I say dramatically, it is pretty dramatic to see 4 times as many people respond to text which says exactly the same thing but written in a different way. Again there is a whole chronicle dedicated to active voice copy writing so read it if you don't understand what I mean.

Of course it depends on the service, the kind of incentives, the clarity of your content and the overall architecture to the pages. We found all this by using a constant measure in conversion (the percentage of subscribers from visitors rather than the number of subscribers/enquirers) and a constant control in the email address that was used to subscribe to.

The implications of this are that if you can do this with your website you are in an informed enough position to make a descision on what to spend to drive more traffic to your website. If you get the conversion consistently right then there is no reason to expect that the conversion rate percentage will change simply because more qualified traffic arrives. The key word here is qualified. If the visitor isn't interested he won't stick around so you still need to carefully plan how to get the traffic (the job of SEO experts).

So if it costs you 'a' to drive 1000 visitors to your site and you know your average conversion rate is going to be 10% you know that 'b' = 100 of those visitors will on average be in your database. You then can do the maths and figure out what the campaign is going to be worth to you. Simple when you think about it.

In other words you have done what the direct mailing marketer does, tested, experimented and then spent the money rather than blindly hope that more visitors equals more sales.
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Steve JacksonAuthor: Steve Jackson, Editor - Conversion Chronicles

Steve Jackson is the Editor of the Conversion Chronicles, a website conversion rate marketing newsletter dedicated to improving website conversion rates. In 2003 he co-founded Aboavista the first web analytics consultancy in Finland and now a wholly owned subsidiary of Satama Interactive. Satama Analytics unit is a web conversion and web analytics consultancy based in Finland with offices across northern europe. You can get a free copy of his e-book sent to you upon subscription to the Conversion Chronicles web site.