An Analytical Approach To Copywriting with Peep Laja

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Peep Laja is the founder and CEO of the online learning institute CXL, a firm that provides marketing training programs and managed online revenue optimization and experimentation services to accelerate growth. 

This month, he also launched Copytesting.com, the web’s only audience research tool for copy. It’s designed to help you understand where the problems are in your copy, so you can fix and improve them. To do this, it allows you to select a panel of real people who will answer research questions about your copy. 

In under a day, you get full results. 

clarityscore

These results include specific answers to questions about your copy.

Listen in as Garrett talks to Peep about this tool, copywriting in general, and how marketers can use it to deliver better results to their clients.

The highlights:

  • (0:53) What sucks about copy right now.
  • (2:22) Where copy matters the most.
  • (4:31) The origins of Copytesting.com.
  • (7:47) What it takes to get valuable results.
  • (11:24) Who the tool is good for.
  • (15:05) When and how often to test your copy.
  • (19:23) Where the copy testers are coming from.
  • (21:20) The future of Copytesting.com. 
  • (23:07) Peep’s causes.

The insights:

What sucks about copywriting right now?

Peep says the number one thing that goes wrong with copy, in general, is that it’s treated as an afterthought.

“It’s like…get the junior person to write that copy. Get that cheap person from Fiverr to write that copy. Or the copy is treated as fill in the blanks. Let’s have our highly paid amazing designer leave some room for copy, put some Lorem Ipsum in there, and then we’ll treat it as a fill in the blank exercise.”

He says this approach rarely leads to very good results.

He also says copy is either typically too verbose, or too egocentric as opposed to telling customers what’s in it for them. It’s vital to focus on what the customer wants, and copy often fails to do that

Where does copywriting matter the most?

When Peep is talking about copy he’s talking primarily about your direct response copy that would be found on your landing page, your sales page, your SaaS sign-up page.
“It’s that page that tries to get people to take a particular action. Sign up for my email list, fill in this whatever, fill out this form, get a quote, buy my stuff.”
Peep also had some thoughts on the perceived tension between SEO and persuasion.
“I think it used to be a bigger distinction,” he said. “Today when you’re optimizing for SEO you’re really optimizing it for humans. The algorithm-first approach is an outdated mindset. I know, yeah, sure, you need the title tags and you need some obvious basic things, but still, human engagement is now a ranking factor, right?”
He acknowledges there’s a lot of debate about what actually factors into rankings, but says ultimately:
“If you write for humans and you aim to move minds and hearts, it’s going to be good copy.”

What were the origins of Copytesting.com?

Peep said he created the tool he really needed. He was already writing a lot of copy just to sell his own products on CXL or having his team write it for him.
“In order to optimize those pages, and get more conversions, we need to make the copy better. Now the question was: how do I know what parts of my copy are already good, and leave it as it is? And what sucks? What should I change? That’s very hard?”
He said there were some ways to create usability checklists or you could hire CRO people to do a heuristic analysis of the page, but for copy, there was no real data. It was all very opinion-based, with no sense of what the audience really thought. If they read anything. If there was anything that was still unclear, or that they weren’t getting. Or which arguments were really working, which were really piquing interests. Or what was scaring them away or turning them off.
“Google Analytics can’t tell me anything there. Can’t say: in your paragraph 4 there’s something that’s really turning people off. There’s no piece of analytics that can tell you that. So I started looking for a tool that could help me optimize copy on my landing pages. Long story short, there wasn’t one, so I built it.”

How many people did it take to make the results valuable?

He says if you can’t use his tool yet then for qualitative purposes even one person that’s a match for the target audience can be helpful. A single individual can offer a lot of insight.

But as the stakes get higher and you’re ready to invest in testing?

“Studies consistently show that 5 to 15 users will find 90% of your usability problems. 15 will find 97% of your usability problems. The same goes for copy.”

They ran a lot of tests to find out how many people needed to give them feedback so that they could continue to get new insights. After a while they found insights started repeating themselves, but they had to get enough people to catch the outliers.

“One guy says: this is bad, I don’t like this…it’s just that one person. This particular person could be an idiot. If you have 10 people and this keeps coming up then you know it’s actually an issue. If there’s only this one guy saying it, maybe it’s not an issue.”

Thus they’ve come to the conclusion that 15 to 20 is the ideal number of people to test a piece of copy. Adding more people costs more, and there are diminishing returns. 

Who is the target audience for Copytesting.com?

Anybody who uses copy to convert customers or leads. Peep does say that the more volume you do, the more transactions where additional CRO would be a big deal, the better the fit will be. Peep does recommend the service to agencies testing their own service offering. It can, in fact, help you sell your own services.
“If your SEO pitch is we help you get more rankings, you’ve already lost. Everyone says that. But if clients hire you to get better conversion rates you now have data on where their copy sucks, what about it is wrong and how you can improve it.”
Peep also stresses that copy is what makes most people buy.
“Just today, Unbounce launched their conversion report where they look at the data across one billion conversions across all Unbounce landing pages. They have some machine learning algorithms that are assessing the impact of various elements on landing pages, asking how one thing affects conversions versus another. The key finding is copywriting is the number one driver of conversions, and it’s two times as important as design.”

When should copy be tested, and how frequently?

Peep says this depends on where you start.

“If it’s your own sales pages, test at least once. Make changes depending on the volume if it’s an ROI question. If you make changes and you increase your conversion rate by 10%, how much is that worth to you?”

He says if clients hire you to build campaigns, do it:

  • Before you launch their landing pages
  • Before you take new sales pages live
  • Offer one more round of testing after customers see it to see if the fixes you implemented made the difference, or whether the same issues came up again.

Where are the testers coming from?

Currently, Copytesting.com gets its testing squad from two places. There’s a panel they’re building on their own where people can apply and fill out a survey about who they are so they can be matched to the right copy and audiences.

“So that when we have someone who requests dog owners in Michigan who are urban dwellers over 65, we can deliver that.”

But Copytesting.com’s panel is still in the early stages, so they’re tapping into other qualitative research companies who have APIs allowing Copytesting.com to tap into their pools and panels. 

Offering 100% in-house panels is one of the features that’s planned for the future of Copytesting.com.

What else is ahead for Copytesting.com?

Peep quotes Reed Hoffman: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you waited too long.” In hindsight, he says:
“It was good for us to launch because it was the core thing of what we were doing and we’re already doing it well. People love it, the reception is great, and there are some kinks we’ve been airing out, but the benefit of feedback cycles, actually talking to customers, has been really motivating for the team as well.”
He says it’s totally different from beta testing, which is something any agency looking to launch their own tools might find useful to know.
“It’s real customer feedback and their questions. We prioritize features and the backlog on what real paying customers want, and that’s exciting.”

What’s your right now cause?

Peep donates to the ACLU every month and subscribes to media like ProPublica, publications that hold the government accountable. 

He also notes that CXL is offering free marketing classes to people in hospitality, restaurants, and the travel industry who have lost their jobs.

“We’re giving them free access to the CXL institute so they can retrain themselves. If they want to leave the hospitality industry behind and just become a marketer, should they want that, we’ll help them get there. We’ll give them free education.”

Peep also notes Code Academy is doing something similar for coders and urges people to check out that resource if they are interested.

Connect with Peep Laja

Want to hear more of what Peep has to say? 

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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