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Improving copy; an easy way to increase user interaction August 5, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in Consumer internet, copy, interaction, Internet, usability, viral, viral marketing, web 2.0.
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Wired’s August edition has a good article about how newspapers are putting their readers to work which is worth reading. But one section that jumped out at me has broader applicability:

A GetPublished! button features prominently on many Enquirer Web pages, and the submissions land in Parker’s queue. They almost never resemble anything commonly considered journalism.

“It used to read, ‘Be a Citizen Journalist,'” Parker says. “And no one ever clicked on it. Then we called it ‘Neighbor to Neighbor,’ and still nothing. For some reason, ‘Get Published’ was the magic phrase.”

Changing copy can make a huge difference in your level of user interaction.

Direct marketers have known about the importance of good copy for years. Good email marketers constantly test and refine subject lines to improve open rates. Many best practices in email marketing subject lines have evolved that are often directly applicable to other areas. The same is true of the best lead generation businesses who are constantly tweaking their landing page copy and form-fill flow to maximize the completion rate.

Copy can improve interaction rates in media businesses as well as these more transactional examples. Another example is in social media optimization (an element of search engine optimization). For example, this list of the top 101 advertising headlines ever written (top 10 excerpted here):

1. They laughed when I sat down at the piano – but when I started to play!
2. They grinned when the waiter spoke to me in French – but their laughter changed to amazement
at my reply.
3. Do you make these mistakes in English?
4. Can You Spot These 10 Decorating Sins?
5. How a “fool stunt” made me a star salesman
6. How a strange accident saved me from baldness
7. Who else wants a screen star figure?
8. Who else wants a lighter cake – in half the mixing time?
9. Free to brides – $2 to others
10. Free to high school teachers – $6 to others

may seem dated, but many of them follow the same rules for headlines that help your article get Dugg today.

Email virality and other forms of viral marketing can also often be tuned and improved through better copy. When dealing with email invitations from friends, more social messages may be more effective than the hard-sell/call-to-action type copy of the examples linked to above. For example, Flixster (a Lightspeed portfolio company) asks in the email subject:

Do we like the same movies?

while Tagged‘s subject line is

[Friend] has Tagged you🙂

In both cases the actual copy is important, but more important is the fact that the companies constantly A:B test their copy to optimize and improve their conversion rates.

The takeaway here is that, although technology startups full of top notch engineers often look to improving the product to improve user interaction rates, sometimes something as simple as a change in words can have much the same result.

I’d like to hear from readers of examples of how small changes in copy improved their user interaction rates. [Note the call to action!]

Comments»

1. DavidZHawk - August 7, 2007

Jeremy, you should promote the personal blogs of portfolio company employees when you write on a topic on which they have already written.

By way of a totally non-self-interested example, I wrote about ad copy a few weeks ago here: http://blogation.blogspot.com/2007/07/four-basic-emotions-to-sell-anything.html
🙂

David

2. Search Engine Marketing - August 7, 2007

You have stressed a good point in there.
Your article is very informative and relevant to SEO
More power to your blog!

3. jeremyliew - August 7, 2007

David,

I’m sorry I missed your post – its very relevant! I like the four versions of the Google ad sense ad you crafted playing on each of the four emotions

4. Words, Words, Words at Like It Matters - August 9, 2007

[…] Jeremy Liew on improving interactions with better copy. […]

5. Focusing on copy can dramatically improve user response « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog - June 18, 2009

[…] in UI, copy, product management, usability. trackback A couple of years ago I posted about how improving copy is an easy way to increase user interaction. Bokardo recently posted on a similar topic, about how microcopy can improve your user interface: […]


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