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CXL Website Optimization Minidegree – Week 2 Review

This past week of my CXL conversion optimization minidegree study was an exciting one. I’m talking specifically about the lessons on conversion copywriting presented by Momoko Price.

It started with how to conduct a copy teardown, and continued with her approach to message-mining.

Using Meclab’s conversion heuristic formula – C = 4M + 3V +2(I-f) – 2A – she shows you how to conduct a methodical critique of a page’s copy. By doing so, you are able to give a score, or grade to the copy, making it more objective – not just subjective speculation about what’s good or not good.

The next section on message-mining was also extremely interesting. I’ve done some of what she describes in past projects, but her approach is outstanding.

My most successful use of message-mining was with a local truck driving school. After pouring over their student enrollments for the past 5 years, we discovered an interesting trend that allowed us to narrow our focus on Facebook ads – resulting in great success.

The way she uses Google forms to capture customer generated messages, and feedback is outstanding. It’s a technique I will use from this point on.

But perhaps the most valuable lesson was how to use the data collected using the Google forms. First, I had no idea that you could transfer the information from Google forms into a spreadsheet. But what I found most useful was how to use that collected data to formulate the copy.

Who knew you could use pivot tables to write copy? This technique was invaluable. I dare say that Momoko’s approach to data collection, and formulating copy based on that data is worth the entire investment in this minidegree. If this was all I learned, it would be worth it.

The section on People & Psychology was also interesting – offering some valuable information.

In particular, I liked the part about the old brain and what triggers it. Knowing that before/after images help reach the old brain will be very useful for my site MedicosExpertos.co where we provide information on plastic surgery in Colombia.

Another psychological bias or principle that I learned, which I will implement on another site is this…

Country of origin-effect. We stereotype products based on their country of origin.

I have another website called TrustedMedExperts.com that was created to promote plastic surgery in Colombia. While Colombia is known for coffee, they are also known for their beautiful women, and their love of plastic surgery. This is definitely something I will work into my copy.

As amazing as this week’s lessons were, there was one HUGE disappointment.

And that was with the end of course exam for the Product Messaging course.

To pass the exam you need to get 90% or better. That’s fine, and understandable. My problem is with the quality of the questions. 

Here’s an example….

Q: Which of the following are critical* for creating a clear visual hierarchy? (select all that are correct)

  • Relative proximity of page elements
  • Color choice of elements
  • Relative size of page elements
  • Relative contrast of page elements
  • Font choice of elements

* Emphasis is mine.

First, what does critical mean?

I could make an argument for all of them being critical. Alas, when I chose all of them, I was wrong. Then I chose another group of choices on my 2nd attempt. Again, wrong.

It seems to me this question could be constructed to be more clear than clever.

Below are my notes for each of the sections covered this week, along with comments on how I might apply the information to my own sites.

Product Messaging

How to conduct a copy “teardown”

The problem with “conventional” teardowns is they can be very subjective.

Better way to do it is to…

  • Base them on established, proven persuasion principles
  • Use them as a gap tool – not to completely re-write the copy

Basis of persuasion principles composed of:

  • MEClab’s conversion sequence heuristic —  C=4M + 3V + 2(I-F) – 2A
  • Cialdini’s principles of persuasion
  • Claude Hopkin’s Scientific Advertising

I was pleased to see that I’ve studied all three. I’ve read Cialdini’s book several times. I’ve read Scientific Advertising at least once, cover-to-cover, and flipped through sections as needed. And I’ve watched many MEClab videos where they reference their heuristic formula.

Using the spreadsheet to analyze a page’s copy makes all the difference in the world. It allows you to objectively score how well a page performs in each area, giving you an overall score.

Introduction to Message-Mining

Message mining is scouring the internet, or other sources, for instances of your target customer voicing what they care most about when it comes to your product/solution.

It’s effective because the customer is more effective at identifying the real-world value of your product (or service) than you are.


They speak a common language, and naturally filer comments according to specific motivation and value.

So message-mining allows you to identify key messages, while “swiping” copy to use on your sales page.

Identifying Key Messages:

MotivationDesired outcomesPain points/problemsPurchase prompts
ValueUnique benefits & advantagesDelightful product featuresDealbreaker needs/requirements
AnxietyUncertaintiesObjectionsPerceived risks

Purchase prompt = what prompted the person to seek out a solution to their problem

Mining messages from your customers


  1. Use voice-of-customer surveys, interviews & tests to construct foundation of the sales narrative.
  2. Design surveys for site visitors, and customers
  3. Understand do’s & don’ts of conducting messaging-focused voice-of-customer interviews

Product awareness is most important.

Visitor surveys good for…

  • Pain points
  • Purchase prompts
  • Anxieties

Customer surveys good for….

  • Unique value/benefits
  • Aha moments
  • Desirable outcomes

Momoko says to avoid using surveys for mobile visitors, but what if your traffic is >90% mobile?

Phone interviews reveal…

  • Product story/narrative
  • Vivid turns of phrase
  • Rich testimonials
  • Emotional hooks

Remote user tests good for…

  • Product story (when you don’t have customers)
  • Clarity issues
  • Friction points

Crafting effective Unique Value Proposition

The biggest thing we can control that contributes to conversions is our value proposition.

UVP = Reason to buy

The mindset we should approach our UVP with is…

“What’s in it for me?”

“Why should I choose YOU over X?”

Building blocks of UVP:

  • What your customers want
  • What your product is/does
  • What’s unique about your product

Constructing a UVP:

Using a spreadsheet, list out…

  • All features of your product/service
  • Identify any/all unique features
  • List customer pain points associated to each feature
  • Define desirable outcomes for each pain
  • Give each pain-point a score from 1-5 for its severity and its frequency
  • Edit pain points with highest scores into a UVP
  • Score the UVP and start with the best one
  • Test UVP’s if possible.

Message Hierarchies

  • Storytelling is critical to selling – “Human thoughts tend to arrange themselves in story. Therefore synchronizing your copy to the visitor’s thought sequence requires a story-based framework.
  • Classic story framework – context/setting -> rising action -> falling action -> resolution
  • Setting/context = who, what, why (UVP)
  • Rising action = features and benefits, how it works, proof
  • CTA = give them the payoff, with incentives
  • Falling action = fill out forms, and checkout
  • Resolution = post-purchase ux
  • MVA -> motivation -> value -> anxiety
    • This is how the sales page should flow
  • If a prospect has low product awareness, you need to use longer copy. Opposite is true for high awareness.
  • Create sales page/home page copy by…
    • Determining customer awareness from survey/poll responses
    • Develop UVP using voice-of-customer research
    • Address motivation and anxiety concerns from statements made in surveys, customer interviews, other research data.
  • The use of a pivot table to determine which messaging to use is brilliant. This is an incredible tip that can really take the guesswork out of writing your copy.

Writing the first draft

  • Avoiding the dreaded “blank page”
  • Take the messaging from your customer research and plug it into the sales page template.

Editing & punching Up your copy

7 simple rules:

  1. Be CLEAR – “Clarity trumps persuasion”. Tell your reader exactly what they need to know. Don’t assume that they’ll infer your meaning.
  2. Match your reader’s mindset.

*** Message-match with a question headline -> Answer with specific value

  1. Deliver lots of value, making it ridiculous for them not to take action.
  2. Use quantifiable proof whenever possible.
  3. Don’t just talk. Paint a word-picture.
  4. Show AND tell generously.
  5. Cut anything that’s not doing real work.

I’ve read a lot of copywriting books, so none of this is new, but it’s great to have this short list to refer back to after writing the draft of a sales page.

Conversion-focused formatting & layout

7 factors that affect effectiveness of copy:

  1. Position of copy on page. Visitors tend to look in an “F-pattern” – starting in the upper left, to the right, then down the left edge, and over again.
  2. Size of the copy. The bigger an element is, the more noticeable they are.
  3. Order of the pieces of copy. People will start at the top.
  4. Space and clutter around the copy. Providing space, and reducing clutter allows visitors to focus more easily, and to make a choice as to whether or not they’ll continue on your page.
  5. Typography. The typography ffects readability, and contributes to readership.
  • Images and icons can support text but MUST be relevant to the copy.
  • https://type-scale.com/ is a great place to test different fonts and font sizes.
  1. Eye magnets help direct a reader, and influence what they look at.
  2. Contrast between your copy and the background draws focus to your copy.

Creating a wireframe of your copy is important because:

  • Your copy and design are two sides of the coin and need to work together
  • Text may not fit when added to the page with current font type and size.
  • It’s easier to judge how it all connects.

** Can you use WordPress Elementor as a wireframe tool? It would allow you to quickly and easily create a new page.

Will be trying out Figma to create wireframes for my own pages. It looks a lot faster than building it out in Elementor.

People & Psychology

Cialdini’s 7 principles of persuasion

  1. Reciprocity – people want to pay back what they receive
  2. Commitment and consistency – people tend to stick to what they’ve previously supported.
  3. Social proof – others have taken this action so it must be good
  4. Authority – people more likely to take action from people to have perceived authority.
  5. Liking – we are more likely to believe, buy from, trust, people we like
  6. Scarcity – we are more drawn to things that are scarce.

Fogg Behavior Model

Behaviour occurs when three things are present:

  • High motivation
  • Easy to do
  • Trigger to take action

Useful for determining when to ask people to take action.

Don’t ask them to take action until you’ve raised their motivation.

Lessons from neuromarketing

Our brain is concerned with three things:

  1. Food
  2. Fight or flight
  3. Fornication

We have 3 brains – each with its own function.

New brain: thinking

Middle brain: feeling

Old brain: deciding

Old brain triggered by 6 stimuli:

  1. Selfishness – what’s in it for me?
  2. Contrast – things that are different capture our attention
  3. Tangible input
  4. Change of state (first and last) – Old brain is triggered by changes of state and will be more alert at the beginning and end of an interaction. For web content, changing up the flow, breaking up blocks of text, can help change the state of mind of the visitor.
  5. Visual. Our brain processes visual cues faster than anything else. A picture can be worth 1000 words.
  6. Emotion. 

#1 Address the pain: You need to agree on the problem.

#2 Differentiate your claims: People visit multiple sites before choosing you. You need to set yourself apart from the others.

#3 Show proof of claims:

  • Use customer testimonials (full name + photo or video)
  • Neutral expert opinions
  • 3rd party reviews
  • Verified studies

#4 Deliver to the old brain.

  • Use grabbers to reach directly to the old brain.
  • Use large photos

Actions that hinder the decision-making process:

  • Focusing on yourself, not the prospect’s wants/needs
  • Not providing contrasting reasons that support your selling proposition
  • Being too conceptual – making your visitor think too much
  • Communicating unnecessary content
  • Not using visuals – relying too heavily on words
  • No emotion

A Big List of Persuasion Techniques

  • The focusing effect. Put a focus on the most important elements.
  • Context dependent memory.  Use contextual clues to remind someone of where they first encountered your message. Maintain a consistent look/feel/message in your ads.
  • Self-generation affect effect. We tend to like ideas and info better when they’ve been generated by our own mind.
    • Ask questions in your content.
    • Ask them to answer questions.
  • Affect heuristic. Our decisions are affected by our emotional state.
    • Try to put visitors into a positive state of mind when selling something new or complex (A good thing to remember for ME. Careful to use images that inspire, and are positive).
  • Facial distraction. We tend to scan faces before ANYTHING else.
    • If using a face on a landing page, choose one that is gazing in the direction of your message.
  • Attentional Bias. We pay attention to things that affect us emotionally.
    • If your brand or product is related in a positive way to an intense emotion, promote this visually and contextually. (Use big, beautiful images on ME).
  • Fear appeals. Persuasive messages that scare someone with the intent to motivate him to act against the threat.
    • Make sure to give them a cta that allows them to defeat the fear. Don’t leave them hanging.
  • Reflection Effect. We avoid risk when we have something to gain, but take risks to avoid losing something meaningful.
    • When you want customers to make a risk-averse choice, test by phrasing your USP as a gain.
    • When you want customers to make a risk-seeking choice, phrase your USP as a loss.
  • Gaze cueing. We focus our attention on objects that others are looking at.
    • When using faces on your website, choose images where the person is looking at the element you want to highlight.
    • Place elements on the right-hand-side of the image.
    • Place negative elements outside the line of gaze.
  • Forer effect. We identify with vague, mostly positive, and general personality descriptions. 
    • Make a connection with visitors by asking general, vague questions. Example: “Are you the kind of person who cares about others?”
  • Choice-supportive bias. We remember our choices as being better than they actually were. 
  • Ambiguity Aversion. People tend towards the certain rather than the probable or possible. Or put another way, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
    • Use guarantees whenever possible.
    • Be specific about what will happen when they click on a link or button.
    • Link shorteners get fewer clicks because they don’t describe where they take the visitor.
  • Belonging & conformity. We long to belong. 
    • Provide ways for customers to gather, and communicate with one another.
    • Find, and support the influencers in the group.
    • Show people, just like your visitor, approve of your product or service.
  • Paradox of choice. If we give more than one option, the option to not choose at all is diminished. If given too many choices, we avoid making any.
  • Autonomy. We want to have control over the situation.
    • On forms, highlight optional fields, not mandatory fields.
  • Visual cueing. Use visual cues such as arrows to direct your visitor to where you want them to go.
  • Endowment effect. We value something we own more than something we don’t. In other words, your customers don’t value your product or service as highly as you do.
  • Self-efficacy. A belief in one’s own competence. The more competent we think we are, the greater our motivation is to act. We also feel that we can accomplish what others have done.
    • Use social proof, showing how others have succeeded.
    • Use instant feedback, like checkmarks, when form fields are successfully filled out.
  • Base rate neglect & base rate fallacy. We base judgements on known specific numbers and percentages, ignoring necessary general statistical information. When mentioning numbers or percentages, use the biggest possible number for looking good, and smallest possible number for negatives.
  • Self-generation memory effect. We remember our own thoughts easier than those we read, or see.
    • Try using open answer feedback questions to find out why someone is considering your product or service.
    • On the checkout page, place a text box to ask why someone chose to buy your product.
  • Perceptual incongruence. We pay attention to things we didn’t expect.
    • When running ads, try using an image that is totally unexpected (place the image upside down or sideways)
  • Status quo bias. We have an irrational preference for the current state of affairs.
    • Present things in a way that you prefer your reader/viewer not to act.
    • Ask questions in the same way – you prefer “no” as the answer. Eg. Are you sure your website is the best it can to sell your product/service?
    • Force people to make a choice – Example: pop-up to get cookie consent.
  • Availability heuristic. If we can imagine it, we believe it to be possible.
    • Use anecdotes to make it easy for people to recall a concept or idea.
    • Use popular examples (celebrities, news)
  • Commitment bias. We like something more when we’ve invested effort into it, and completed our actions.
    • Aka the “Ikea effect” – they “let us” make our own furniture.
    • If possible, allow people to make or customize their product.
  • Conceptual & associative priming. Subtle cues can set off a cascade of associations. Ex: “moon” = night, dark, werewolf, astronaut
    • Test the effect of different emotions, content, colours, and images in content.
  • Signalling, triggers, reminders & alerts. For us to act, we must 1) be sufficiently motivated to do so, 2) have the ability to perform the behaviour, 3) be triggered to perform the behaviour.
    • Use retargeting, text alerts to nudge people to take action.
  • Sparking triggers. Sparking triggers can increase motivation and get people to take action. For example, “You haven’t logged in for some time. Here’s what you’ve missed…”
  • Facilitating Triggers. These triggers are used when motivation is high. Making it easy to take action using facilitating triggers can increase conversion.
  • Repetition & direct priming. The more you repeat something, the more it’s remembered, and acted on.
    • Use the same words and phrases in your text across pages and in links/buttons.
    • Display cross-sell combinations as soon as you know which product someone intends to buy.
  • Peak-end rule. We judge an experience by how pleasant or unpleasant it was at its peak, or at its ending.
    • Use unexpected “peaks” at the end of a transaction or sales page.
      • Eg. Unexpected gift for new customers on thank-you page.
  • Domestic country bias. We are biased towards products made in our own country, and against those made elsewhere. This bias is strongest during periods of patriotism ( Canada day)
  • Country of origin-effect. We stereotype products based on their country of origin. Ex. germany = cars, France = wine, Colombia = coffee, and plastic surgery
    • Colombia is known for beautiful women. In last 20 years of Miss Universe, they’ve been in the top 10 for 8 of those years.
  • Position targeting. We tend to base comparisons of products on just a few criteria.
    • Ex. When comparing your product to strong competitors, focus on the few areas where you shine. Emphasize that your prospects should make a deliberate and rational choice.
  • Hyperbolic discounting. We prefer our rewards sooner than later.
    • Make your product or service more readily available – immediate access.
  • Equivalence framing. Frame things in the best possible light.
  • Front loading. We prefer to get the conclusion first. Most of the time, it’s better to lead with the conclusion or at least a teaser of the conclusion.
    • Even in bullet points, put the most important info first.
    • This can be applied to every piece of writing – Headlines, email subject lines, paragraphs…
  • Present focus bias (immediacy effect). When deciding between two options or rewards, we tend to prefer the most readily available option.
  • Emphasis framing. 

Cognitive Biases

False-consensus bias: You think the world is like you.

  • Never assume that the users of a site think like you, or believe the same things you do.

The curse of knowledge.

  • Once you know something, it’s difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about that subject.
  • When you design a new page, have someone else go through it to make sure it works the way you expect it to.


  • Anchoring occurs during decision-making when a persona uses an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgements.

Egocentric Bias

  • This bias is about recalling the past in a self-serving manner. The past is remembered to be better than it actually was.

Recency Bias

  • We tend to prefer fresh data over older data. For example, choosing a book on a topic based on its publication date.

Selective Perception

  • The way you phrase questions will affect responses, so do your best not to lead people to a particular answer.

Confirmation Bias

  • People tend to test things that confirm their beliefs. 

Congruence Bias

  • It’s the tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing.
  • Instead, if you have a hypothesis for what to test, try to come up with alternative hypotheses – as different as possible – and test both.

Clustering Illusion

  • The tendency to erroneously perceive small samples from random distributions to have significant “streaks” or “clusters”, caused by a human tendency to underpredict the amount of variability likely to appear in a small sample of random or semi-random data due to chance. 
  • In other words, when you have a small sample size, and think you spot a trend … you’re probably wrong.

Emotional and Rational Decision Making

  • 90% of our behaviour is generated outside of our consciousness.
  • At the point of decision, our emotions are very important – even when we think we’re deciding for logical reasons.
  • You must create a vision for the prospect that leads them to draw their own conclusion (in your favour).
  • Web copy needs to have a combination of emotion and logic.

How People View Websites

  • Top-left gets the immediate attention
  • People read in F-patterns – scanning content as they go down the page.
  • 28% of text is read, on average.
  • Make intro paragraphs visibly bigger to increase readership. I love this idea and will be going back to all my sites and implementing it.
  • Use high quality images. People who look like models draw less attention than “real” people.
  • E-commerce product page study: value perceptions and image size
    • For design category products, small images may increase attention while larger images may increase attention for tech products.
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Curtis Penner

Curtis Penner

Curtis Penner is the man behind the sheep ... ahem ... well, he helps service-based businesses harness the power of online marketing to become the lead sheep in their markets. Cause if you follow the herd, all you get is sheep $#!t on your shoes.