How to optimise a page using a copy teardown

Published on June 7, 2022 by Simran Kabotra

Optimising content can often be opinion based, and when you’re new to content optimisation & SEO, it can be hard to know what to look for. Where do you start? What do you prioritise? A way to answer these questions is to use a copy teardown. In this post, you’ll learn about what a copy teardown is, the principles behind it and how to implement it in your work.

What is a copy teardown?

A copy teardown is a standardised approach that we use in our content work and allows you to analyse and write conversion-focused copy.

Why we use a copy teardown:

  • Based on proven persuasion principles
  • Helps write better messaging
  • Aligns target audience needs with the product/service
  • A standardised approach rather than opinion based

What a copy teardown looks like

Before we get into more depth about the copy teardown, here is what it can look like:

Colourful spreadsheet depicting a copy teardown

How does it work?

A copy teardown is based on 3 persuasion principles. All 3 principles come together to form the copy teardown which is why it’s so effective. The 3 principles are:

  • MECLABS Conversion Heuristic Formula
  • Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion
  • Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising

Priniciple 1: MECLABS conversion heuristic formula

 

C = 4M + 3V + 2(I-F) – 2A

 

This formula is not a mathematical formula to work out!

It’s a hierarchy of messaging types to include in copywriting. This formula merely represents the power of each element to make persuasive copy.

The numbers refer to importance and the letters refer to copywriting elements. So for example, 4 is the biggest number so the letter next to it (M) is the most important, followed by 3V and so on.

The minus symbols (-F, -2A) are elements we want to remove in the conversion journey.

Here are what the letters mean:

 

C = Probability of Conversion: What is the probability of the visitor saying yes to your product/service?

M = Motivation: Understand the visitor’s motivation and make sure that the messaging is aligned with that motivation

V = Value Proposition: What is being offered to visitors that they can’t get anywhere else?

I = Incentive: Special offers to incentivise the visitor to stimulate a desired action

-F = Friction: How hard are you making it for visitors to act & convert? Such as making it difficult for the visitor to find information, having lots of links, difficult checkout process, etc.

-A = Anxiety: Address any fears, uncertainties and doubts about the product/service/brand

Principle 2:Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion

In his book, Cialdini explores factors that affect people’s decision when purchasing. The 6 principles can help to persuade others to take a specific action or buy a specific product. These are:

  • Social proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity
  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment & Consistency

 

Social Proof

Evidence that other people are saying ‘YES’. When it comes to decision making, we often look around us to see what others are doing, before making our mind up. E.g. experts, current/past users, peers, celebrities, trusted influencers etc.

Authority

In order to be trusted, you need to position your brand as an authority. E.g. ‘we have x years of experience in this industry’, ‘we have x industry recognised accreditations’ etc.

Liking

People are much more likely to be influenced and persuaded by those that they like rather than those that they don’t. E.g. similar values to visitor, fight similar causes that the visitor believes in, personability, being human etc.

Scarcity

People desire the things they perceive as less available. E.g. x amount left, low stock, limited edition etc.

Reciprocity

You are more likely to return a favour to somebody if they’ve already given you something first. E.g. a free gift added to your cart at checkout, offering an exclusive deal/product etc.

Commitment & Consistency

If visitors commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honour that commitment. And they will be consistent in that commitment. E.g. offering a free trial or signing up to a membership to get discounts. This can lead to a bigger purchase later on.

 

Principle 3: Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising

Claude Hopkins, known as the first conversion copywriter, brought science and method into advertising. He tested to see what types of copy worked and noted his insights in his book, Scientific Advertising. His rules were:

  • Rule 1: Be specific
  • Rule 2: Offer service
  • Rule 3: Tell the full story

Rule 1: Be specific

“…general statements count for little. And a man inclined to superlatives must expect that his every statement will be taken with some caution. …But a man who makes a specific claim is either telling the truth or a LIE.”

General statements are easily forgettable and won’t have the fine, specific details to make it memorable.

If you’re highlighting specific data values, specific attributes, and making very specific claims in your copy, then you’re not making them up.

E.g. ‘Vacuum cleaner motor filters an impressive amount of particles.’

vs.

‘Washable post-motor filter traps 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns – as small as bacteria.’

 

Rule 2: Offer service

“Remember that the people you address are selfish, as we all are… The best ads ask no one want to buy, but they offer wanted information. They cite advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample… so the customer may prove claims without any risk.”

Visitors want to know how the product/service can benefit them. Copy needs to address that the product/service can make the visitor’s lives easier and better.

E.g. ‘Buy this innovative vacuum cleaner at a great price.’

vs.

‘Looking for an easier way to clean your home? Our vacuum cleaner can leave your home spotless 3x faster than standard brands so you can focus on relaxing.’

Rule 3: Tell the full story

“There is no fixed rule on the subject of brevity. One sentence may tell a complete story on a line like chewing gum. It may on an article like Cream of Wheat. But, whether long or short, an advertising story should be reasonably complete.”

The length of copy doesn’t matter, it’s more about writing enough to get your story across. The visitor needs to know about the problem they’re facing and how the product/service can give them the happy ending they want.

E.g. ‘Prevent back and knee pain by using our cordless vacuum cleaners to make cleaning easier, quicker and pain-free.’

Copy teardown walkthrough

Now you’ve got an idea of the theory behind the copy teardown, let’s take a look at how you actually fill one out.

colourful spreadsheet depicting a copy teardown

In the first column we have the conversion requirement, which includes elements from the persuasion principles we went through.

The second column breaks the conversion requirement down into checklist items so you know what you’re looking for to target that specific conversion requirement.

With an unfilled spreadsheet similar to this, you can take a look at the page you want to optimise and work your way through the rows. As you’re going through the rows, you’ll be giving a score of how well the page achieves the checklist item. The scores are from 0 to 3; 0 – not done, 1 – needs improvement and 2 – executed well.

After you’ve finished scoring the checklist items, the copy teardown will look like something like this:

With this spreadsheet, you can systematically make your way through optimising your on-page copy by improving the messaging using persuasive principles.

After you’ve optimised the on-page copy, you can go back to the spreadsheet and fill out the ‘fixed?’ column. If an item hasn’t been fixed, you can add notes as to why not. You may need to obtain more information about the product/service – whether that be from the client or researching into your target audience. The final result can look like this:

Try it for yourself

The copy teardown is an approach that provides a clear roadmap for on-page content optimisation and allows you to start writing conversion-focused copy. When you try it yourself, you’ll start to get a better understanding of what the visitor is looking for and the kind of information they need.

If you want to find out more about writing content, take a look at our Head of Content and Conversion’s blogs here:

Good copy doesn’t fit in a box

How to proofread content right

How to perform a content audit