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These 5 “Copy Cosmetic” Mistakes Are Costing You Conversions

It’s a split second decision…
The eyes of your website visitor are sending information to the brain — and the brain is making choices …

  • Will they opt-in or click away?
  • Will they open or delete?
  • Will they be compelled to buy or turned off by you for good?

From initial ad scent — through your entire funnel, the behavior of your prospect is greatly influenced by what they see.
With that in mind, getting copy cosmetics right is a vital part of getting response…
… and this is actually a lot simpler to work with than you might think.
Here’s 5 mistakes (and how to fix them) that may be costing you conversions…

Mistake #1: The Incorrect Presentation of Price & Value

Have you ever been confused by the way that sometimes you see the zeros in a price and sometimes you don’t? Let’s clear that up once and for all …
If it’s “just” one hundred dollars (meaning we want to convey how small the investment is), we leave off the zeros. Like this …
If it’s a whopping one hundred dollar value (meaning we want to convey how much it’s worth), we leave in the zeros in the cents columns.
This rule of thumb is all about what your eyes perceive in just a flash … if they see all those zeros it looks like a lot of money. If they don’t see them, it looks like less money.
I’m not saying we’re trying to trick the eyes. We just want to help them make the right split-second decision.
Let’s look at some examples …
This one is price presentation gone wrong … with all those zeros (no matter how small they make them) these sunglasses might as well be $10,000.00!
And again here, this book might as well cost two grand! They could easily list this at either $25 or even $26 and convey a lower investment, simply by including fewer digits in the presentation of the price.
Here are some examples with the price presentation done right …
The rule of thumb is that the more numbers the eyeballs have to process means that the brain might think it costs more money.
But there’s even a mistake on the Amazon example above. The $19 part looks good, but when they mention the savings they should have written “save $20.00.”

Mistake #2: Emphasizing a Single Word

Okay, there is probably a time and a place for emphasizing a single WORD.
But back away from the screen you’re looking at right now … if you were to skim this page and only read bolds, underlines, all caps, italics, and colors other than black…
Would you really get the gist of what’s here through that one WORD emphasis?
You would not.
So, emphasize entire phrases.
When you cosmetically enhance something in your copy, you want to ensure that what you’re drawing the eyes to tells a complete story.
Emphasizing one or two words (like, WOW) will rarely tell a story or help your reader get the gist of your point when they skim the page.
(You can learn more about the dual readership path here.)
Essentially, there are two types of readers: the skimmer, and the person who consumes every word.
Most of us are skimmers. Most of your prospects are skimmers. Cater to them and make sure that if they scan your page from top to bottom and only pay attention to the things you’ve culled out with bolding, color, italics, etc., they’ll get the point of your message.
And remember, you don’t want them to just get the point; you’ve got to appeal to their emotions with those enhancements. So, keep that in mind when you choose which words you’ll emphasize.
Include the high level facts of your offer, but also include a little bit of the why they should care.
Let’s look at an example …
The sales letter below is trying to convey the problems with most real estate courses. But the skimmer just sees “NEVER, LONG, COMPLICATED.” It’s not a complete thought and it makes too much work for your lazy prospect to translate all of this and figure out what you really mean.
Here’s that same copy cleaned up, and effectively communicating the right message with cosmetics:

Mistake #3: Overdoing it

How can you keep yourself from overdoing it with cosmetic enhancements?
Well, first, let’s clarify …
It does not matter if your piece is pretty. There are only two things that matter:

  • It matters if it gets read.
  • It matters if it gets response.

But, if you go overboard with bolding and caps, 12 different colors, and 12 different fonts — you’ll risk overwhelming the eye with too much to process. Your reader should not feel like they’re on the Vegas strip inside your sales message.
Overstimulation will work against you.
In fact, if you picture your prospect as the extreme couch potato, someone you have to work very hard to move into action, your ultimate goal is to make it VERY EASY for them to read your pitch.
Then, of course, make the buying process easy too.
The whole point of cosmetics is to do the work for your reader of pointing out the important stuff.
You are the creator of the cliff’s notes on your offer.
This takes a little practice, but just always have in the front of your mind … when it comes to marketing in general, but certainly as it pertains to how your copy looks …
The most important job you have is to make the process easy for your prospect.

  • Simplify your message.
  • Simplify the way it looks.
  • Make it easy for anyone to consume.
  • Make it easy for them to buy.

And this is important, even if your audience is very sophisticated.
Let’s look at an example …
Although what’s been enhanced with color, bolding, and size seems to be important text, it’s overwhelming to read. In fact, there’s so much enhancement going on here that you might just have to read the whole thing.
Skimmers don’t want to do that.
Not every thing in your copy needs to be enhanced with cosmetics. Too much emphasis and enhancement is just overwhelming.
Here’s that same copy, but now it’s EASY for the skimmer to just pay attention to the cosmetics and get the point of the message without reading the whole thing.

Mistake #4: Misplacing Testimonials

Social proof is a big deal … to the point where some might even argue that it doesn’t matter how you present testimonials or where you put them, as long as you do use them.
They’d be wrong.
Remember this …
If they never read your stuff, they’ll never buy your stuff.
With that in mind, how you present your testimonials and where you put them are really important considerations.
You should not just plop down testimonials in the middle of your copy when they’re not an integral part of the conversation.
There are two ways I advocate testimonial use:
1. Floating along the side of the copy in a text box, like this:
2. Integrated into your story, introduced and inserted when testimonials are called for within your sales letter, like this:
In the second way mentioned above the testimonial is introduced to the reader before it’s read (i.e., “here’s what some of our happy customers have to say”) and it shows up in the part of the letter where social proof is called for.
But all too often, I see marketers use a testimonial in the wrong spot and without an introduction.
This creates a big, red STOP sign in the eyes of your reader and interrupts the flow of your sales copy.
So don’t interrupt their flow, even if it’s to show them something that should push them in the right direction. That will feel choppy and disjointed.
It is wise to put relevant testimonials near copy that the testimonial speaks to so that your reader can see the social proof of what you’re saying, but …
They should be off to the side so your reader isn’t forced to stop reading your message, start reading the testimonial, then somehow pick back up with the conversation you were having before that testimonial came along.
That’s a lot of work to put on someone that you want to buy from you.

Mistake #5: Bullet Abuse

Oh, bullets. — The most misunderstood of all the copy elements.
They are a useful way to accomplish a lot of things, such as:

  • Break up the monotony of paragraphs (be careful with this one)
  • List features
  • List benefits
  • List components of a products or service (the what you get part of things)
  • List options

But I see sometimes that when folks don’t really know what this copy element is supposed to be used for they’ll turn something that should be in paragraph form into bullets just to break things up visually or to give themselves the break of having to write paragraphs that are compelling.
You can learn more about the best way to write bullets here.
But just don’t take the easy way out and use bullets when you don’t have something to list, or they’ll be no story to your story!
Man, oh man, this example below is painful to look at.
Pointing out JUST the use of bullets (not anything else that might be wrong with the copy), you can easily see that there’s no list here. This is just a paragraph broken up into bullets. Yikes!
Are you making any of these mistakes?
Here’s a little experiment to help you improve your marketing: See if you can simplify any of your marketing messages by going through your content and making sure you’re not committing any of these copy faux pas. This includes your emails, your web pages, or even direct mail.
Simplify the look of it. Make it easier for them to digest.
Then of course, measure and share your results!

Julie Boswell

Julie Boswell

Julie operates a copywriting and consulting business she cofounded,, a company dedicated to providing a second set of eyes for business owners.  Their focus is on teaching the fundamentals of direct response copywriting, reviewing and providing feedback for improvement, as well as providing done-for-you copywriting services.

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