How To Boost Your Income
By Testing Your Web Copy
"Do You Make These Mistakes In English?"
Many copywriters will recognize that question instantly. It was the headline of one of the world's longest-running ads; the ad for the Sherwin Cody School of English ran for over four decades at a profit.
What you may not know about that ad is that it initially had another headline: "Are You Afraid Of Making Mistakes In English?"
According to copywriting legend John Caples in his book Tested Advertising Methods, "Are You Afraid … " was a failure. "Do You Make … " was a blockbuster success.
Both were considered good enough to run … Yet, only one proved profitable — and enduring at that!
Though the advertiser may have missed those decades of profit, if it weren't for a simple test.
And this is your secret to boosting your income dramatically as a direct-response web copywriter.
Finally! Copywriters Can Make Money Like A Casino
I want to tell you about a little trick that can help you make money like a casino. I'll explain.
You see — it's common knowledge that the games at a casino have odds stacked in the casino's favor. That is, for every $100 inserted into a slot machine or played at the roulette table, the house collects maybe fifty cents, maybe a dollar. Sure, they can give $99 of the $100 back in winnings — to keep the players playing … But, ultimately the casino has put the odds in its favor to consistently win a portion of every $100 bet.
Now, what I'm going to tell you about doesn't quite give you the exact same consistency of odds … But, it does significantly stack the odds in your favor above and beyond what you're probably doing now. It's a lot like giving yourself casino-like "house odds."
In fact, it could double or even triple your chances of getting a winner on every online sales letter, landing page, email, or other piece of online direct-response copy you write.
And it's simple, too.
All you have to do is learn the absolute basics of testing advertising (and don't worry — there's no technical lesson here).
How Testing Can Boost Your Web Copywriting Income
In the case of the "Mistakes in English" ad, Maxwell Sackheim (the copywriter) wrote a phenomenal ad. The body copy — which was the same between the two ads — was the foundation for over four decades of profitable advertising. But, it wasn't until the test was made and a winning headline was found that the final ad worked as well as it did.
This is an important lesson for all copywriters — and especially those who get paid royalties or bonuses based on results generated. The difference between months (even years) of royalty payments and a losing ad can be as simple as a headline test.
And, here's how you use this knowledge to boost your income as a web writer who gets paid on performance …
All you have to do is give your client more than one piece of copy to test!
It's as simple as this — if you want to double your odds of getting a winner (and collecting the royalty payments), just give your clients two pieces of copy to test instead of one. To triple your odds, give them three pieces of copy.
By simply testing multiple copy approaches instead of a single copy approach, you make it significantly more likely you'll get a winner.
Most of my clients are happy to do this — in many cases, they're testing my copy against someone else's anyway, so throwing in one more test is no skin off their nose.
Even if your client isn't an avid tester, tools like Google Website Optimizer make it easy for their webmaster to run a marketing test with your online copy.
Rules For Effective Testing
I've literally written a book on effective testing of your marketing (with Bob Bly). But, what you need to know as a copywriter can be summed up in one sentence:
Test obvious changes.
When you give your client two or three versions of your copy to test, don't waste the test on three versions of a single sentence buried in paragraph three of the copy. Instead, test changes that are instantly noticeable.
- Test different headlines — headline tests can often have the biggest impact.
- Test different leads — the headline and up to two pages or so of body copy. This is a variation on the headline test for longer copy, and allows you to test totally different ideas versus rewording the same idea in a headline test.
- Test different pictures — if your copy incorporates pictures, you can test "static" product shots versus pictures of the product "in use" versus "before and after" pictures.
- Test different offers — different price points, different bonuses, annual versus monthly membership options, and other significant changes to an offer can have a significant impact on response and profits.
- Test different order forms — we focus so much on our promotional copy but the order form can be a deal-breaker for some. Create two dramatically different order forms or checkout processes and you could see one is profitable while the other isn't.
This is just a starter list — but if you focus on testing obvious changes, you'll notice an interesting pattern emerge. The more dramatically different your tests are, the more dramatically different the response between them will be.
If you test two almost identical web pages, they'll give you almost identical responses. However, if you test pages that are instantly recognized as being different from each other, you'll notice the response rates and profits the two generate will vary tremendously.
One will generate significantly more profits — and that's your winner. And, that winner could be your ticket to dramatically more income as a web writer.
The Technical Question, Answered
Before I wrap up, I should address something. A common complaint with testing is, "But I don't know how to run a test online." Fair enough. I do, but that doesn't provide me any advantage as a web writer. Because I'm never the one running the test.
Many clients who hire copywriters have a web department that's already well versed in testing. They do all the technical work for you. In that case, no worry.
If your client doesn't have someone who can do testing, you have two options:
- Forget it. I've found it's often an uphill battle to create a culture of testing within a company, and you may be better off finding another client.
- Point their web people to Google Website Optimizer. This free, simple-to-use tool is all you need to start running conversion tests on a website. It's so simple, your client's most inexperienced web staff member will be able to set up the test in no time.
But, you shouldn't worry about the technical side of things. Instead, focus on coming up with two or more dramatically different pieces of web copy for your client to test against each other — so you can collect your royalties and performance bonuses on the winner.
And, one more thing. Even if you're not writing for royalties or performance bonuses, this provides you another way to increase your income as a web writer. On every project, you can offer your clients additional "test versions" for a fee. For example, you may have one fee to write a landing page, but for just 25-50% more, you can create a second "test version" of the landing page and give your client better odds of getting a winner.
Once you have this fundamental skill set, it's just a matter of applying a little creativity to figure out all the ways it can make you even more money as a web writer.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
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