Conversion Heroes is a series of short 5-question interviews with experts in the field of conversion. Subjects for discussion include landing pages, copywriting, conversion optimization, social media conversion, email marketing, organic SEO for landing pages and A/B & multivariate testing.
Today’s Conversion Hero is Roberta Rosenberg
Roberta is a regular contributor to Copyblogger.com where she writes the popular Landing Page Makeover series. She also teaches copywriting for American Writers and Artists Institute and writes children’s book reviews for Adoptive Families magazine. She has also served as Technical Editor for Blogging All-in-One for Dummies (April 2010), Google Blogger for Dummies (2009) and Writing Copy for Dummies (2004).
Firstly, a big thank you to Roberta for participating in the interview. The topic for discussion is copywriting for landing pages.
1. Writing an effective headline
Oli: What process do you use when writing a headline for a landing page?
Roberta: It depends, but generally I don’t write the headline first. I always feel like that’s too much pressure. Instead, I just dig into the body copy for the promotion. By involving myself deeply in the meat of the product or service, ideas for headlines generally bubble to the surface. I keep a yellow pad handy or a Notepad window open on my screen for jotting headlines down as they come to me, but continue to work on the other writing. When I feel like I’ve pretty much got the basic copy down, I return to the headline list. I may write more or I may start reviewing and editing what I’ve already listed. My approach is very non-linear, but I prefer to let the ideas flow as they flow.
Oli: How much of your time is spent on the headline?
Roberta: Sometimes I get lucky and the headline just presents itself. It could be something buried deep in the copy or it could be a phrase from a testimonial that just jumps off the page and I get the benefit of a true Eureka moment. Other times I need to run a lot of headlines to get remotely close to what I want to say. So given the vagaries of the creative process, I spend about 25 to 30% of total copy time on the headline.
Oli: What would be your top 3 tips for writing headlines that grab peoples attention?
Roberta: Write to your prospect’s deepest wish, desire, or pain point that needs solving so you engage the reader emotionally from the get-go … Don’t try to sell the “whole shooting match” in the headline. Give enough for a tantalizing taste so the prospect will want to read more and learn more (which is the only job of the headline, to get folks to read further) … Write with specific and juicy nouns and verbs rather than add adjectives to general nouns and verbs. You’ll get a shorter headline that delivers more punch.
2. Matching the tone & brand of your clients
Oli: When you are writing on behalf of a client, how important is it to understand how they present their brand via the tone and language of existing collateral materials (such as ads, websites, print and TV)?
Roberta: In a word, very. If the client already has a specific tone, voice and language to their brand and promotion personality, the writer absolutely has to keep to the spirit of that brand. Their current customers and prospects have already been exposed to the constant messaging. While I understand the temptation to succumb to “And now for something completely different!”, it’s often the company creatives who tire of a campaign years before their market does. Customers and prospects don’t need different – they need effective messaging that clearly and definitively gets to the point and connects with them emotionally.
Oli: Are there any steps (research etc.) you take to ensure this continuity?
Roberta: Yes, read/view/experience as much about your client, their competition and their industry. Take banking, for example. We’ve moved away from the usual pompous, sonorous tone to friendlier, warmer and more personal. But because we’re still talking about people’s money, the ads still need to convey trust, confidence, and expertise. Compare to the arch and ironic tone of many hi-tech service companies who seek to emphasize geek cool. As I’ve been known to say to my copywriting students, marketing clients, and even my own kids – “If you want to be a successful communicator, you gotta know how to play the room.”
3. Landing page narrative
Oli: Is it possible (and if so beneficial) to treat writing for a landing page like telling a story? (With a beginning, middle and end)?
Roberta: I think all good advertising/promotion efforts always have a strong, easily understood narrative (I prefer narrative because too many really smart folks think stories are for kids and old folks. :)
But like a good story, it begins with a riveting opening … the body of the story reveals the detail slowly and sometimes surprisingly so the audience’s attention doesn’t wane … and bam! You conclude with an ending that delights, informs, or even teaches. A good story told with style and passion leaves the listener transformed. Great advertising with a strong narrative compels the viewer/reader to act because it is in their self-interest to do so.
And when they do? Magic.
4. Editing a landing page
Oli: How would you suggest that a writer go about editing their landing pages?
Roberta: I’m a big believer in just blathering all over the page or screen as a first step. Just write. Don’t edit, don’t play with fonts (for years I continued to write in Courier New since it meant “copy” to my brain) or think about graphics. Do nothing else but write. You don’t have to write in a linear fashion – write bullets first, then a call to action, etc. The key is to just keep writing and if you get a little stuck in one place, go to a different component and write that. I never have writer’s block because there’s ALWAYS something I could be writing. I can almost feel myself, like a sculptor throwing clay at a new bust-in-progress, throwing words and thoughts at the screen. It’s very ‘muscular’ writing. :)
Once all of that is done, I put it all aside and let it set awhile. It’s best if I can give it one or two days of breathing room. Then I begin editing and that I generally do in a step-by-step process over a day or two (if I have the breathing room. I don’t always.) I’ll go through a piece several times. Once I think it’s in pretty good shape, I’ll ask a copywriting colleague to do a quick review. I find this very helpful to make sure my flow, tone, and overall consistency is solid. With colleagues comments in hand, I generally edit one more time – perhaps come up with a few testing possibilities to recommend to the client – and let it set one more time overnight. One more look-see in the morning and off it goes.
I almost never let a client see a first draft at close of business. I like the extra time just in case I get inspired overnight – and many times I do.
5. If you could be any landing page, which would it be and why?
Oli: In other words, what’s an example of a great landing page that you really like, and what is it about it that you think makes it a success?
Roberta: I think the folks here have done a nice assembly job of clean, attractive and effective landing pages/home pages.
I notice that Unbounce is among them, and rightfully so. I could tweak almost all of them, but I think it’s a good place to start and learn. All of them share appropriate attention to the headline messaging, hero image, and calls to action to get the viewer to take the next action or at least interact. I especially like yours, Magnitize, and Register.com.
If I were a landing page, I’d like to generate the maximum CTR and LTV (lifetime value) with the fewest amount of words and images as I’m a minimalist at heart.
Say the most with the least and let the visitor’s own desire take it from there.
Once again, a big thanks to Roberta for the insight into copywriting for landing pages.
More Conversion Heroes
Part 1: Roberta Rosenberg on Copywriting for Landing Pages
Part 2: Dan Martell on Social Media Conversion
Part 3: Paras Chopra on Split Testing
Part 4: John Hossack on PPC
Part 5: Chris Goward on Conversion Rate Optimization
Part 6: Cindy Alvarez on Point-of-Conversion Feedback
Part 7: Tim Ash on Landing Page Optimization
About Roberta Rosenberg
Roberta Rosenberg is President/CEO of MGP Direct, Inc., a direct marketing consultancy located in Clarksville, Maryland. She has 25+ years as a direct response marketer, consultant and copywriter, mostly with clients in publishing, high-tech, scientific/medical, social services, and web application service companies.
She also owns two other companies. AdoptShoppe.com, a popular online adoption gift shop, first launched in 1999. In 2003, she bought a speciality baby book publishing company which she renamed AdoptShoppe Press.
She blogs at CopywritingMaven.com for fun and is a regular contributor to Copyblogger.com where she writes the popular Landing Page Makeover series. She also teaches copywriting for American Writers and Artists Institute and writes children’s book reviews for Adoptive Families magazine. Roberta has also served as Technical Editor for Blogging All-in-One for Dummies (April 2010), Google Blogger for Dummies (2009) and Writing Copy for Dummies (2004).
A native of Massapequa, New York, Roberta studied Broadcast Journalism at The Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She went on to complete her Bachelor of Science degree in Radio/TV/Film from University College, University of Maryland, College Park.
Roberta is married and lives with her husband, three children, and two cats. When she isn’t working, she can usually be found waiting for one of her children at the dentist’s office. Roberta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.