How to drastically improve the copy on your site, even if you only have 5 minutes.

May 2, 2013 in An idea, Business Intel, Expert Advice, Landing Pages, Tips

First, let me tell you a little story involving butterflies and bladders. 

I've spent the past few days at MicroConf. Just a phenomenal conference, full of like-minded folks, loaded with actionable content. Not to get too carried away, but it was a life-changer. I'd go on some more, but I don't want you competing with me for tickets next year.

On the second day, Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers selected a handful of sites from the audience to do a public "tear down" of in front of these 200 folks. 200 folks I admire and respect. I had submitted my baby, my brand-new, just launched site ( ahead of time as a candidate to be selected.

As soon as she took the stage, an angry mob of butterflies started attacking my internal organs.

She opened the first site and started working it over and providing some great, if slightly brutal feedback. Really good stuff. After she moved to the next site I could see in her browser window that she had about 12 tabs open. It dawned on me that she was working her way through these open tabs, and that the open tabs were the sites she had selected for tear down. About eight tabs in, I saw the favicon for my site. The angry butterflies grew teeth. Sharp ones. And they pulled out pitch forks. And chainsaws. And congregated in my bladder.

I figured 7 tabs was a lot of ground to cover, so I would have the time to address the sudden urge, and from where I was sitting in the very front row I quickly slinked out the back of the room to the bathroom. What a baby, I know. I emptied my bladder and the butterflies relocated to my stomach and heart. I hurried back to the conference room and what to my wondering eyes did appear as I walked in the room than my site, my baby, my precious up on the big screen. She had already started. The moderator was looking for the site owner to hand the microphone to. I pulled a hamstring sprinting to the front of the room, groping for the microphone like the final runner in a relay race. 


So here's what I learned, and how I dramatically improved the copy on my site in 5 minutes (and how you can too):

After she said some nice things, Joanna pointed out the main problem with my copy - the language was all focused on me, and it should instead be focused on my prospect. I was selling myself, when I should be focusing on what's in it for them.

In Joanna's own words:

Talking about yourself -- even thinking about yourself -- when you write your copy will only do one thing: get in the way.

It will shut down the sale.

Which means that you are the biggest roadblock to better communication with your customers.

This is the foundation of great copywriting: People don't care about you. They only care about themselves.

You care about you. But no one else does. (Except yo' mama.)

Your visitors want what they want. They do not "want" what you're trying to sell them.

Your job then, is not to "try" to sell your visitors a product. You're trying to sell them themselves.

Ok, so here's a fun little exercise, take a look at the version of my site Joanna (and everyone!) saw and see if you can spot the problems. To make it easier, I've color-coded my stupidity.



So as soon as I got home, I spent 5 minutes (and I'll need to spend more, we're not perfect yet) and turned those sub headings around. Check out the difference below (or see it here in the wild).


Notice the difference? Yeah. Serious improvement.

My humble thanks to Joanna for the help.

I hope this gives you some ideas for your site. 

I highly recommend Joanna's email list, by the way. The first lesson she sends out addresses the same topic I've addressed here in even more depth.



March 19, 2012 in 3 out of 5 stars, Free, Landing Pages, PR and Publicity

What is it?


LaunchRock: A service that provides a pre-launch page for your startup (you know, the "signup to be notified when we launch" type of site).

Heres the one I created for a project I'm working on for startup founders (and those aspiring to be).

Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

In addition to a nice pre-launch page, it has good social integration, encouraging those who sign up to share it with their friends via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr or email. 

FireShot Screen Capture #013 - 'Are you a founder of an internet startup_ - We're looking for startup founders who have launched (or are launching soon) and are willing to share their story_' - signup_launchhappy_com

There are also some modest stats telling you your conversion rate, which can be helpful.

FireShot Screen Capture #012 - 'Insights I LaunchRock' - app_launchrock_com_insights

It's fairly easy to use, and they've thought of a lot of details like a confirmation email, social integration where you can pre-seed what they say when they share, an ability to export all of your subscribers for easy loading into your favorite email sending system, and domain mapping (i.e. you can point your own URL to your page).

If you feel too constrained by their limited template, you can embed the form on your own site, where you have more latitude.

What could be improved?

They offer a very limited ability to customize the design and layout for the fully hosted version. They have custom CSS "coming soon" which should help immensely. I was able to work around some of these limitations by using inline HTML and inline styles - which seem to be supported. It's fairly amenable to a little lightweight "hacking."

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

p.s. see also: Launch Effect which I liked a bit better. It's a WordPress theme with the same purpose.

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Launch Effect

November 4, 2011 in 4 out of 5 stars, A piece of software, Analytics, Free, Landing Pages

What is it?

Launch-effect-logoLaunch Effect: A free WordPress theme anyone can use to quickly create a professional looking, virally inclined pre-launch page for your upcoming product website, app, service, etc.).

Who makes it?

Barrel LLC

Why is it the killerest?

First let me state that I'm saving you some trouble, because I did this the hard way first. For my latest venture I started by building a pre-launch site from scratch. It's a couple pages, right? How hard can it be? Well - to do well, actually - kinda hard. Or, time consuming anyway. Consuming of time you should be spending building your New Thing.

1. It's very easy to set up - virtually anyone can do it.

I'm no WordPress guru, but I went from nothing to a fully launched site in just a few hours. First, I fired up a super cheap hosting account with my registrar NameCheap. Once my account was set up, I logged in, installed WordPress (literally a few mouse clicks), then downloaded the Launch Effect theme, uploaded and installed it in my WordPress, made a few tweaks, and my site was ready to go. 

2. It's got built in social-sharing tools and viral spreading motivation 

This is perhaps the nicest feature and something you likely wouldn't have time to build yourself. And it's all baked in, and very easy to configure. 

How it works: After someone gives you their email address, they're presented with a thank you message, and a panel of social icons they can click to share. 


Subscribers are also given a unique tracking link. When they use that link (or any of the icons) to share, you and they will both be able to see how many folks they've sent to the site, and how many signed up themselves.

Additionally, you can give them an incentive to share. On mine, I'm giving away a free lifetime account to someone who shares and leads someone else to sign up.

3. It's got great built in tracking

As mentioned above, each person who signs up will show up in your admin panel, along with the number of clicks they've sent you, and how many of those have also signed up (plus conversion rate). Both you, and they can see these stats at any time.


What could be improved?

Tracking your referrals is too confusing for visitors.

When a visitor shares, they have access to their referral, and conversion stats, but in order to see that information, they have to re-submit their email address into the signup form. Clever - but how on earth are they supposed to know that? There's really no good way to communicate that to them at this point.

It needs to integrate with MailChimp and/or Campaign Monitor.

First, it's very easy to export your signups in a CSV and import them into MailChimp - which, if you're only going to do that once, is no big deal. But ideally, you'd like to get an auto-response email to your signups. This would allow you to tell them about the referral stuff noted in my last complaint, as well as a few other bells and whistles that MailChimp offers.

It's a bit hard to fully customize without touching the code.

Out of the box, it probably does most everything you need, and you can certainly make a perfectly good-enough site without customization. But if what you want to do isn't exactly what the theme expects you to do, you'll need to dive into the css and/or php files. This is a minor niggle though, it has very solid customization constructs.

It has only a small subset of the available Google Fonts to work with. 

That said, they do natively support TypeKit and MonoType.

And I note, they're working improving it. This roadmap looks great.

How much does it cost?

Nothing (it's free)


Reviewed by Carson McComas

p.s. Here's the one I set up. If you make one, please share it in the comments below.


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Landing Page Case Study - Invoice Bubble

July 15, 2010 in Landing Pages

Rounding out my landing page coverage, I'd like to share some insights from a page in the wild that does a nice job incorporating the principles we've been discussing here. 


Stu Green, the creator, was kind enough to answer a few questions about what they're doing:

How are you getting traffic?

We have a few channels that put traffic through to Invoice Bubble. The best way to get solid traffic is by getting reviewed or getting featured in CSS galleries. We got a lot of traffic after being featured in a web gallery called Web Creme, plus we also had a few writeups and reviews on sites like MakeUseOf and Tuttoaster.

How well is that traffic converting to signup?

The social buzz really kicked up when we made Invoice Bubble free. We suddenly found that we were getting lots of traffic through social bookmarking because it changed from being another premium web app, to being a useful and FREE tool for freelancers. When that happened our signup conversion also shot up from about 2% to about 8% of all unique visitations, which is a massive jump - but one that you would expect given the very low risk factor for signing up (its free).

Those are nice conversion rates. What principles are you employing on your landing page to achieve that success?  

Our landing page is simple. It says what it does on the tin "Free Online Invoice Software". Everything is big, clear and obvious with no messing around. We have clear call to actions to either "Get Started for Free", or to "Take the Tour". Every page basically ends up on the sign up page, so therefore people have two options, close the website or sign up. The only reason that someone wouldn't sign up is that they are not interested in using the app. Therefore with that clear choice in mind, we get a pretty good percentage that do end up deciding to sign up and use the app.

How did you figure out these principles?

The way that we learnt those principles is purely by trial and error. We have tried 30 day trials, we have tried having just a landing page and no Tour, we have tried really clear and bold headings on the landing page (as you see), and more long-winded explanations of the app, we have tried different pricing and tried ultimately making the app completely free. So its only by experimentation that we have learnt those lessons.

One thing that we don't do on Invoice Bubble that we DO do on Project Bubble (the bigger brother app) is to show a video. I would say the most important thing when designing a good landing page is to be really clear about what the product offers, have clear calls to action (as you see on Invoice Bubble), but also show off the product in a video and give your users NO excuse not to click on the video. A human voice, visuals and music can do so much for your conversion rate than any ordinary text could ever do. When we put a video on Project Bubble it almost doubled our conversion rate, so we might do the same thing for Invoice Bubble in the future.

Great insights Stu! Thanks for sharing. 

Stu-green Stu Green is the managing director of Haloweb Ltd, a UK based web application development company who currently have 3 apps: Project Bubble (project management for small businesses), Invoice Bubble (invoicing for freelancers), and Halogy (a white label, easy-to-use CMS for agencies).

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Good landing page principles are good UX principles

July 8, 2010 in Landing Pages

If you haven't seen the new Think Vitamin Membership offering from Carsonified, and you're a web developer of any kind, it's worth checking out. Below I've embedded one of their free videos (most are behind a pay wall) that does a great job of explaining some of the principles behind a proper landing page. They don't use that exact language, but you'll see the familiar principles at play. Enjoy.

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A few landing page principles

July 6, 2010 in Landing Pages

Don't over-complicate things, a successful landing page is simple and focused. 

When visitors land on your page, they have a few questions in mind, and your landing page should answer them.

  1. Does it offer what I need?
  2. What does it look like?
  3. How much does it cost?

    And before they act, they also want to know:
  4. Can I trust you?

Finally, they need a way to convert. This should not be hard to find, do, or figure out. 

A old designer trick that works well here is to sit back and squint your eyes at your landing page and see if it's obvious how to act. I've taken a few successful landing pages with different conversion methods, and done some of that work for you to illustrate you what I mean. As you look over these page screenshots, is it obvious how to convert?





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Defining a "successful" landing page

July 2, 2010 in Landing Pages

This one is simple. The metric that matters when defining a "successful" landing page is profitability. You need to make more than you spend to bring the traffic. If you're spending X to get traffic, and you're profiting X-plus-anything after the conversion, you're successful. If not, you aren't. 

This might require a 25% conversion rate, or it might work with a 1% conversion rate. 

 A couple of examples of a successful landing page:

  • You are running an AdWords campaign, and you pay $1.00 per click and you have a 1% conversion rate. Your offering costs $150. Assuming you have less than $50 in labor and other costs associated with a conversion, you're profitable and have a successful landing page at a 1% conversion rate.
  • You are giving way an eBook full of great, useful information. In the eBook you establish yourself as an expert. 25% of those who land on your page click the link and download your book. Of those who download the eBook, 0.2% (1 in 500) hire you to consult. You make $200/hr consulting and a typical gig is 25 hours. You're not spending anything explicitly to gain traffic, but you're hustling to spread the word using social media.

    Each month you get 4,000 visitors to your landing page (giving away 1,000 eBooks). That translates to two consulting gigs, or $10,000 which is enough to cover your overhead with enough left over to live the way you'd like. You're profitable at a 25% conversion rate.

(btw, do you have a successful landing page? You should share it with us). 

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