Written by James Scherer
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The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Chapter 4: The Right Copy


Words have two ‘meanings’: denotative and connotative. Denotative meaning is the dictionary’s definition of a word. Connotative meaning is far more complex, and far more interesting for marketers.

Consider the word ‘mother’. Denotatively, the word ‘mother’ simply means ‘a woman in relation to a child to whom she has given birth’. Connotatively, however, it means and evokes so much more in each one of us. We hear the word and immediately we imagine a face, a smell, a voice, a place, a feeling.

6. Impact of Language

In short, the words you use don’t exist in a vacuum. Each person who reads them has an individual (and connotative) response to them all. Many of these connotations you can rely on (such as “Free,” “Now” and dollar signs) but some are more complicated (such as Mother, for instance).

A few of the most connotatively meaningful words that affect conversion:

  • “You,” “Me,” “Yours,” etc (as in, “Grow your business using social media. Our proven software makes it easy.”)
  • “New” (as in, “New Insights into A/B testing.”)
  • “Save” (as in “Save 55% over 12 months.”)
  • “Proven” (as in “Proven results from 12,450 happy customers.”)
  • “Free” - see below...

Psychological Case Study:

Soocial (now Viadeo) is an online address-book app. Several years ago when they were just starting out, the company tested the “sign up” button on their homepage. They added the phrase “it’s free!” next to their CTA button (no other change):

The original (with a 14.5% for conversion rate):

The variation (with a 18.6% conversion rate:):

Of course not every business will see a 15% conversion increase by adding “It’s free!” next to their signup button, but this case study nonetheless makes an effective point: When communicating the value of engagement with your business online, don’t forget that nothing’s more tempting than free.

How you can use this psychological factor for conversion rate optimization:

  • Money has more connotative value than, arguably, anything else. In our consumerist culture we see money and we see the things we could buy with it, not the note itself. We see new shoes, a college fund, our next holiday, supporting our family. When mentioning dollar values, use the dollar sign if you’re discussing discounts or offers and remove it when you’re selling. (Here’s the study from Cornell which backs that up).
  • When running a contest, advertise the word “Free” within your headline. Also, test it within (or next to) your landing page CTAs
  • Focus your landing page copy on pronouns to develop relationship and appeal to your visitor’s ego. Use “you”, “your” and customer testimonials.

Further Reading on The Right Copy:

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Written by James Scherer

James Scherer is the content editor at Wishpond. When he's not writing or designing for Wishpond he's risking his life biking around the city. Reach out to him on Twitter @JDScherer.