So you’re about to launch your next email marketing campaign. You’ve positioned all the key messages correctly, written compelling body copy that is going to appeal to your readers, and everything is set for the campaign to be a huge success.

You send it off and get great open rates, but for some reason people just don’t seem to be clicking through. What went wrong?

The answer could be your microcopy.

While everyone devotes their time to writing great subject lines and headings, microcopy is one of the parts of your email that can often go overlooked. Considering it can be a critical factor in the success of an email marketing campaign, it’s something worth learning more about.

What is microcopy?

Microcopy, like all other copy, is words. But these are not the words you normally put your time and effort into, like subject lines and headings.

Instead, microcopy is the smaller bits of text you use on things like buttons, links & form fields.

You have likely seen microcopy on many websites you visit, such as the homepage of Chegg, a popular textbook rental service.

In this example, you actually see two of the most common types of microcopy: instructional and reassuring.

The microcopy in the search box is an example of instructional microcopy. It is designed to instruct people how to use the site to search for textbooks.

Directly below the search box however, you will find an example of reassuring microcopy. It is designed to address potential customers concerns with using the site and reassure them the site is safe and their satisfaction is guaranteed.

Whilst Chegg do a good job of using microcopy on the web, it’s also equally effective in email marketing campaigns.

In this email from eWebDesign, they use great instructional microcopy on their main call to action button which reads ‘Click here to start downloading’. By spending a bit more time writing this great microcopy, they leave no doubt in their readers mind what the next step is and therefore increase their chance of getting the click.

Similarly, in this campaign from Online Store Guys, they use great microcopy on one of the links in the email which reads ‘View a selection of photos from the night’. With this choice of microcopy, recipients have absolutely no doubt what value they are going to get from clicking on the link.

By taking the time to think about and write great microcopy, both these organisations make it crystal clear to the reader what the next step is and what value they are going to get from taking it. While it may seem like a small detail, it can go a long way in increasing a reader’s desire to click.

Does microcopy really help improve conversions?

Now that you know what microcopy is, you may be wondering whether it really improves click-through rates and conversions. In short, the answer is yes.

In a great example of using instructional microcopy, interface designer Joshua Porter added one small piece of microcopy to a checkout form that instructed customers to enter the billing address associated with their credit card.

In this case, the result was a significant drop in form errors about mismatched billing information and ultimately an increase in conversions and revenue.

In a great example of reassuring microcopy, Mark Boulton added a few lines about PayPal to the checkout form of his book Designing For The Web. The copy is ‘Transactions are handled through paypal but you don’t need a paypal account to buy this book’. This addresses concerns people have about needing to create yet another account and goes a long way to reducing friction and increasing conversions.

How can I use microcopy to increase click-throughs in my email campaigns?

Now that you see how microcopy works, it’s time to put it to use in your own campaigns. The steps are simple:

1. View your email campaigns from a readers perspective

Before you hit send on the campaign, view a preview and try to assess it from your readers perspective. To do this, ask yourself 3 questions:

  • Is it clear to the reader what the next step is?
  • Is it clear what is going to happen when they take that next step?
  • Have you addressed the objections they might have to taking that next step?

2. Generate some ideas for testing

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the 3 questions you asked of your email campaigns above, then these are great foundations for an A/B test.

If it isn’t clear what the next step is, then perhaps you can try testing your main call to action button to make it more obvious. Something like eWebDesign’s ‘Click here to download images’ makes it incredibly easy for people to understand what the next step is.

If it isn’t obvious what is going to happen when they take that next step, then perhaps you could try testing your call to action or link text. Something like the Online Store Guys “View a selection of photos from the night’ is a great example of microcopy that makes it really clear what is going to happen when someone clicks the link.

3. A/B test your microcopy

Finally, implement your microcopy changes as A/B tests to make sure they really help increase your email click-through rates.

With email marketing tools like Campaign Monitor, you can easily turn any of your campaigns into A/B tests and the tool will automatically monitor the results, select the winner and then deliver the best performing campaign to your list.

In Conclusion

Although writing great subject lines and headings are the critical parts of a good email marketing campaign, choosing the right microcopy for your buttons and links can help you get the absolute most out of every email you send.

So before you send off your next campaign, double check you haven’t overlooked any of the smaller pieces of text in your email and that they are all optimized for conversion as much as possible.

Like always, if you find an area of microcopy that could be improved then A/B test it to make sure. If you are using the right email marketing tool then it should be super easy to do and it won’t cost you any time or money to run, so why wouldn’t you give it a try?

Have you ever considered the microcopy in your email campaigns and how it can affect click-through rates? Have you ever tested different microcopy? If so, let us know what you’ve found in the comments!

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  • Carlee

    Nice write up Aaron! I’m obsessed with microcopy, I wish more people were.

  • Dan

    From my experience copy isn’t important at all in some cases, depending on industry. Recipients spend only few seconds looking at email anyway, so they won’t be able to read much. But test your audience to find out what it is for you.

  • Simon

    Anyone else notice this in the Five Simple Steps screenshot:

    “Any credit or debit card will del”

    del? I presume “do”?

    Otherwise, another great article – big fan of microcopy when it’s used correctly, and we’ve found it definitely helps to explain specific painpoints or trust (explaining the security number from the back of a credit card for example, or re-assuring people on privacy/security, etc…) and usually test all this via Optimizely first to see that it’s actually having a positive impact on both conversions and revenue.

  • elise

    @Simon, I noticed that and found it curious as well, especially in a discussion about the value of microcopy.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Simon and Elise, sorry about that typo! We’ve corrected it now – it was definitely an oversight on our part. Glad you enjoyed the blog post and definitely agree that there are some excellent tests you can run on microcopy, to see whether different variations improve conversions and more.

    Maybe our next test is to see what effect typos have, hey? ;)

  • Simon

    At least you know we’re not only reading the Campaign Monitor blog posts, but reading them in detail :)

  • Tom J.

    Really great post, Aaron. Improving our email campaign design (from both a design and content perspective) is really high on my priority list this year; this write-up has given me some more food for thought.

  • Jordy Heis

    Thanks for including us in your guide Aaron. Can’t believe we chose the ‘correction pen’ red colour for our link, but hey it definitely stands out! Microcopy done well can hugely increase click through rates and guide customers down the path of your marketing objective.

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