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Take a look at the following two sets of text, and as you read them try to gauge which you think would be more likely in converting a website visitor into a website customer:

1) “Have you been looking for the perfect blue widget to outfit your home or office? Then you’ve come to the right place at bluewidgets.com. We have lots of blue widgets in stock and you’re sure to find the right one for your needs.”

2) “Are you searching for absolute perfection in blue widgets for your residence or business? Let us cater to your widget requirements and provide all that you ardently desire. We maintain a full selection of blue widgets for your perusal.”

What do you think? Does the second version sound much more sophisticated? Does the first version describe a product that would fit your needs? Well, as Bill Nye the Science Guy says, “one test is worth one thousand expert opinions” – and THAT is conversion marketing.

The major differences between the two sales copy versions is the reading level that they represent. According to the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level calculation, the first version is written at a 5th grade reading level, and the second at a 9th grade level. The way to find out which is better at selling product is to set up structured tests and measure the results. In this example, a set of standard A/B split tests could be used to measure the effect of reading level alone on different variations of sales copy.

Well, here’s the result:

When we pit sales copy at the 5th grade level against copy written at a high school level in conversion tests, we find that – almost without exception – the 5th grade copy will get more visitors to purchase the product that’s being described.

Why is this? Well, it’s not because your potential customers are all 5th graders, or because all of your potential customers read at a 5th grade level. The truth is that they’re not dumb, they’re just in a hurry! You have less than 8 seconds to convince a website visitor to stay once they’ve hit a page of your website, and 5th grade level reading material is just plain faster to digest. A visitor can absorb the information much more quickly, and in a day and age where 1,000 more results are just a Back button click away, no one wants to read a white paper when they first hit your site.

So what other action items can we take from this result? We have another hypothesis to test: the more information a user can absorb in a shorter period of time, the more likely they are to convert. Let’s use the principles of conversion marketing to think of some more tests that could help us increase our conversion rates.

  • How about bullet points versus paragraph format product descriptions? We know bullet points are easier to digest!
  • How about instructional images (i.e. product demonstrations) instead of standalone product images? Tell the user how the product will meet their needs without writing a word!
  • Number of sentences or word count in your product descriptions, use of whitespace, location of pertinent information, the list goes on and on.

These variables can be tested one version against the other in A/B split testing or page version testing, or you could even measure interaction effects by designing and running a multivariate experiment.

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