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Why Your Lazy Attempts at Copy are Killing Your Conversions

by Peter Boyle

This is the greatest article you’ll ever read.

Everything you’ve read in your life until this point pales in comparison to the wondrous insights you’re about to experience.

Upon finishing this piece you’ll become the world’s greatest marketer, one who’s mastered the infinitely detailed nuances of the English language and how to leverage them for the success of your business.

I could sit here and write grandiose claims all day long. I could regale you with unbelievable promises, tales of unparalleled success and the secrets to profit until I’m blue in the face.

But honestly, would you believe me?

Probably not, right. And you’d be right not to.

Why? Because those claims are too grandiose. They’re nothing but hype, providing no substance or proof of the claims that are being made.

I’d like to say that this article really is the most popular on the internet and is the best guide at helping you triple your revenue in a month, but without proof, they’re vague superlatives which a reader will rightly steer clear of.

Why Superlative, Vague Claims Don’t Convert

The short answer to why superlatives don’t convert? They’re too hypey.

There may once have been a time when the ignorance and gullibility of the consumer market meant snake oil salesmen could get away with outlandish claims and ridiculous promises, but that time has passed.

The modern consumer is smarter than ever before. They’re educated on the dynamics of modern commerce and the tactics sleazy marketers use.

We’ve all received those awful over the top, unsolicited sales emails. The ones that outline an amazing solution at a low, low price and promise the world. And we all discount them within seconds of opening them.

Why? Because we see the overly hyped copy for what it is. A lie.

Superlatives in Copywriting

Source

Bad internet marketers have turned us into a race of skeptics. And it’s that skepticism that should dictate how you word your copy.

Unfortunately many business owners don’t seem to understand how skeptical their target markets are. They rely on their own opinion and the hopes they hold for their business to dictate their copy. A tactic which often leads to the overuse of superlatives.

I completely understand and know it to be an easy mistake to make. You’ve put countless hours into the creation of your product. You really do think it’s the best on the market and that it could benefit tens of thousands or revolutionize an industry. But no one cares what you think.

Customers don’t trust brands and how they spin their own products. They trust the reviews and opinions of their peers.

As soon as they read your superlative-laden copy they’re going to head straight to a review site or forum to check what their peers have to say. In fact:

  • Three out of four users check social media before making a purchase (source)
  • 61% of consumers check online reviews before making a purchase (source)
  • 73% of users form an opinion by reading one to six reviews (source)

Consumer reviews to avoid superlative copywriting

Your website isn’t the place where sensationalist claims are going to win you sales. All they do is convince consumers they need to check out both what other customers are saying and what your competition has to offer.

I’m not saying you can’t highlight the benefits of purchasing from you. I’m just saying you need to do it carefully. If you are going to make a claim to the greatness of your product you need to do so while following the below guidelines.

Provide Proof

Nothing screams scam like a vague claim to greatness.

Would you believe me if I told you I’m the best copywriter in the world? Or the most prolific goal scorer in the English Premier League?

Of course you wouldn’t. For one, they’re completely over the top claims. Second, anyone with an internet connection and a spare five minutes would have no problems debunking them.

I’m not saying you can’t tell consumers you’re the best realtor in town, the most incredible agency or the most popular store. But you have to provide proof of those claims.

Simply shouting them to the internet isn’t convincing anyone that what you’re saying is accurate. You need to provide some proof that adds legitimacy to your claims and lets your users know that you really are the best at what you do.

The question is, what kinds of proof will suffice?

Industry Awards

Think of shows like the X Factor. When a contestant argues they are the next international megastar with a voice that could put the most beautiful songbird to shame, what do you think?

Do you believe them and sit in anticipation of what should be the greatest song ever performed? Or do you scoff and wait to see the inevitable train wreck waiting to happen?

It’s the latter right? It seems we’re all programmed to discount the grandiose claims of an individual as self-serving bluster.

But if it were Simon Cowell who said, “hey, you know this next singer’s really great and I see a great future for them”, how would you react? Most of us would sit up, listen and actually expect a decent performance.

Why?

Because the skill and ability of the contestant has been legitimized by an unbiased, authoritative third party.

And that’s what you need to do. The only way you’re going to get away with claiming that you are the best at what you do is if an unbiased third party says so.

[Industry Magazine]’s 2016 Best Service Provider sounds a lot more convincing than The Best Service in Town! Here’s a look at how Karl Tatler, an award-winning estate agency in the UK, displays their awards.

our recent awards

Don’t make claims that are vague, bombastic and, let’s be honest, untrue.

Consumer Testimonials

Not every business has won an award or even has an award to compete for.

When there’s no authority in your niche to help you stand apart from the competition you’ve got to turn to your current and past customers.

We all know the importance of consumer testimonials. There’s dozens of articles that cover their effect and how highlighting testimonials on page have increased conversions. But you can also repurpose testimonials for other areas of your marketing like landing pages.

LKR Social Media did exactly that. They switched their headline from offering an attractive lead magnet to one that was a copy of a testimonial regarding the newsletter content.

Using Customer testimonials for Landing page headline

The result? A 24.31% increase in email signups.

Don’t torture yourself trying to come up with non-hypey yet effective copy, sometimes (most of the time!) your customers will write it for you!

Cut Down or Remove Bland Adjectives

Great copy doesn’t come in the creation phase. No one writes a killer landing page, awesome email or compelling CTA on their first try. No, successful copywriting is the result of editing. The penultimate stage where you cut your lengthy message down to punchy sentences and the core message.

And honestly, most businesses are great at cutting their copy down to the core message and offering.

The problem is in the way they deliver these messages. These key messages are delivered in a manner that’s a little vague. They rely on wishy-washy adjectives to deliver the key message.

Fast shipping

Cheap solution

Pioneering company

There’s nothing wrong with the above adjectives. You might work for a pioneering company that offers a cheap solution with fast shipping. But take a second to think about it and you’ll realize that the above is pretty vague.

As soon as I read the above I wonder about the details. How fast is your shipping? How cheap is the solution and what makes you pioneering?

These adjectives might describe your company, but they’re bland and don’t offer the reader the detail they need.

Instead of relying on bland superlative adjectives delve into the details.

Don’t say fast shipping – say you deliver within 3-5 days worldwide

Price should be listed and not alluded to. The solution isn’t cheap, it’s $2.99, $200 or $2000. If it’s cheap in comparison to your competitors your users will now without you offering a vague, pointless explanation.

Explain what your company is doing that makes them pioneering instead of just throwing the word out there.

Avoid useless adjectives. It may exacerbate your inner artist, but sometimes copy that’s direct, to the point and matter of fact is exactly what your readers want.

Not all Adjectives are Bad

But Pete”, you say, “I love using adjectives in my copy. It brings it to life!” I hear ya. When used well, well-positioned adjectives can really add a more tactile element to your copy.

For certain products and campaigns stating facts and getting to the point isn’t what’s going to work. You want to create a vivid image in the user’s mind of exactly how the product feels, works, sounds and how it can change their life.

In these cases, carefully choose adjectives that create a more tangible idea of what the product does, looks or feels like. You need to focus on onomatopoeic phrases and tactile words that give an example of what the user will receive.

Apple’s a good example of how a few carefully placed adjectives can liven up otherwise regular copy and place emphasis on the product and how it will react with the consumer.

In the below, there’s a single sensory adjective which takes you out of reading about the product. It brings the idea to life and gets you thinking about how the product will react when it’s sat on your wrist.

Tactile copy example from Apple

Play to Emotional Triggers

We all know how effective emotional triggers can be in creating compelling copy.

Find the biggest problem, exacerbate consumer worry, provide a solution and boom, you’ve got yourself some damn fine compelling copy.

For brands yet to collect awards or testimonials it can be a great way to get new readers on board and interested in what you’re selling.

The problem is figuring out how to work the ol’ emotional angle into a narrative.

It’s no easy feat and has derailed many well-meaning business owner’s best efforts. I’ve always found the best strategy is to address what Charles Duhigg calls the cue, routine, reward cycle in his book The Power of Habit.

The book is all about the formation of habits – both good and bad – and how they form the majority of our day-to-day actions. According to Duhigg famous marketers like Claude Hopkins have used the cue, routine, reward cycle to change consumer behavior for the benefit of a brand.

In the book Duhigg focuses on Hopkins’ extremely successful campaign for Pepsodent. Hopkins managed to take a product which was used by 7% of Americans and, through focusing on a cue and reward routine, grew it until 65% of Americans were using toothpaste. This, of course, netted him a tidy profit.

One of the ads read: “Just run your tongue across your teeth. You’ll feel a film – That’s what makes your teeth look ‘off color’ and invites decay”.

The cue is one anyone who’s got drunk and forgot to brush will know. That gritty feeling you get when you run your tongue across your teeth. The emotional reward is one deep-rooted in most of our psyches, the desire to be more attractive.

Cue, routine, reward Hopkins

Hopkins discovered a cue experienced by nearly everyone. He presented an action that would answer the cue and deliver a reward his target audience wanted.

If you can find the cue synonymous with a feeling of despair or helplessness with your audience and work it into a narrative highlighting a solution, you won’t need to use crappy superlatives or bland adjectives. As soon as your prospect reads your copy, the solution will be stuck in their head and will be the first thing they think of the next time that cue surfaces.

Find the feeling that can be used as a cue and effective copy will follow.

Superlatives Have No Place Outside of a Yearbook

This all boils down to one particular piece of advice.

Stop being lazy.

The superlative phrases so many brands use as a crutch are the easy way out of creating compelling copy. They follow the path most often traveled which, unfortunately, is a path no one likes because it often leads to a scam.

These phrases aren’t band-aids any brand can patch over an ailing campaign. They’re earned. You’re not the best because you say you are, you’re the best when you earn that position and title.

When you’re creating copy stop relying on vague superlatives. Instead of taking the easy route you’ve got to:

  • Provide proof in the form of awards or testimonials
  • Get rid of the bland, vague adjectives like fast/fastest, great/greatest etc.
  • Swap bland adjectives out for tactile, onomatopoeic alternatives
  • And if you’re not sure where to go, create an emotion driven story

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Peter Boyle.

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Peter Boyle

Pete Boyle is a conversion focused copywriter and marketing consultant. He helps brands increase their revenue through compelling copy and smart email campaigns. Click here to connect with Pete or download one of his free marketing guides.

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  1. Marilynn says:
    October 10, 2016 at 4:22 am

    Wow, excellent post! Everyone who wants to be a successful and respected SEO specialist must avoid these techniques.

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