Testing website copy when writing a brand story

When telling your brand’s story, make sure you keep conversion rate optimisation in mind: Researching your audience and testing website copy

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This week, I was invited to speak at SIMS, a MeetUp for internet marketers to come together and talk strategy. After my presentation (about Conversion Rate Optimisation, of course!) we opened up the floor for a live analysis of a website and then a more general discussion about Digital Marketing.

Me, presenting some serious CRO at SIMS (credit: R Cheesley)
Me, presenting some serious CRO at SIMS
(credit: R Cheesley)

As you’d expect from an open forum, we covered loads, but what struck me (apart from my nerves!) was that the room really grasped the importance of brand storytelling. We covered the basics of a ‘good’ homepage – including the presence of a company logo, which led to an interesting point about echoing the logo’s style through a website’s aesthetics, branding guidelines, and then what it means to communicate who you are as a business: How to tell a story.

What is a brand story?

Ok, this goes way beyond just the content on your website, or what you use in your marketing material. It’s not just copy, it’s not just the facts, it’s the feelings and emotions you have about your business that you want others to share and believe. It’s the building block on which you should shape your business. It’s a way to show how you differ from the competition, why your offering should be valued higher, and why you’re a great choice for your audience.

Writing a great brand story

Although I’ve harped on about being individual and showing why you’re different, there are some best practices you should follow when creating your brand’s story:

Be Honest
That’s not to say you can’t be creative, but truth and transparency should be your priority.

Use Brand Persona
Having a personality makes you interesting. Boring brand stories will not grab the attention of your audience.

Introduce Characters
I’m definitely not talking about a Tony The Tiger-type mascot. You can use buyer persona, or employee experiences to help establish an emotional connection with your audience.

Leave Them Wanting More
Your story should be complete (with a beginning, middle and end) but also a page-turner. Hooks and teasers will invite and entice your audience to return.

Really, telling your brand’s story is not actually about you or your company. It’s about what you or your company can do for your customers, what you bring to the party. It’s not a few paragraphs on your company’s “About Us” page, it’s the language you use through your entire website’s copy. Choose language that resonates with your audience.

Don’t write for people you don’t know

You should absolutely get to know your audience. Don’t write what you want to write, write what they want to read – How do you find out what they want to read? Ask them!

I lurve iperceptions for gathering feedback from visitors to your website, but you can reach out using your email list, check through your social media mentions to see how people talk about you, and ask your employees why it is they work for you. All this will help you choose how to speak to your audience by highlighting what matters, and why you matter.

Joanna Wiebe at Copyhackers wrote a cracker of a post about listening to your prospects and using review mining to choose not just what you communicate, but how you communicate it. Go read it. For serious.

Test Your Copy

What a frustrating and sweeping statement. But it’s one thing to identify your copy isn’t working, and quite another to understand why.

I’d never, ever recommend going through your whole website and changing all your copy on a hunch. Nor would I recommend you test your entire website’s copy at once. I do appreciate though, that it can be difficult to work out exactly which bit of your copy is under-performing.

When I test copy, there are two things I have to tick off my To Do List before I start:

  1. What are we trying to achieve?
  2. Which bits of content are trying to achieve it?

Now, an achievement is likely to be the main conversion (a sign up, a submission or a purchase), but we need to go more granular here and break it down into the problems on the lead up to the main conversion:

  • Bounce rate for the landing page is way high
  • Leads from the landing page aren’t qualified
  • Why are there no leads from the landing page?

My next step is to determine the purpose of each “piece” of content on a site:

  • Headlines keep people on a page
  • Intro copy outlines purpose
  • Persuasive buttons encourage clicks

If I can see that, for example, the leads a site’s getting aren’t qualified, I’d reckon the ‘intro copy’ (the content you’re using to back up that lovely, engaging headline) needs work. Maybe it’s the wording itself that’s the issue, but maybe it’s the wording in relation to the headline – I’ve got two distinct tests to run… Time to utilise that user feedback!

Copywriting is an Art Form

Although I believe writing good copy is an art, and demands a certain level of creativity, there is most definitely an element of science behind it too. Ultimately, you should relish the experience of creating and then sharing your story with others. If you also take the time to understand and test to find out what really works, your audience are more likely to enjoy reading the story as much as you enjoyed writing it – and if they enjoy it, they’ll connect, then convert.


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