How your copy formatting is tanking your sales and how to fix it

How your copy formatting is tanking your sales and how to fix it

1. Your page is too wide.

I know, I know, wide sites are all the rage. And that looks great for giant, delicious images. For text? Notsomuch. See, in designer language we call this typography tuning. Where we basically futz and measure and adjust everything from the space between the letters to the space between the lines, to the average word count per line. But not all designers do this. And most normal humans don’t bother with such things.

See, our eyes are like little tiny cameras. When you move a camera quickly across a landscape, it blurs. Your eye does the same thing. And it gets fatigued very quickly from attempting to focus and move at the same time.

The result? Your readers skip lines and look for bold type.

So, what did your people miss by only reading the bold type because your page was too wide?

Quick fixes:

  • If you have easy access to design adjustments, make your main copy area 600-700 pixels wide [this is a rough ballpark, and is based a lot on how large your text is… but we’re making the assumption you’re using something standard and your text size is around 14 points].
  • If you don’t, insert a tall narrow image of some kind to the right or left of your copy. It can even be a big empty bar that’s the same color as your background. The idea is just to fill the space. You may need to do some adjusting to the total height for each page, based on how long your copy is on each page, but the width should gobble up the difference between however wide your page is now, and a copy area that’s around 600-700 pixels [so if your total page width is 1100 pixels wide, make your image at least 400 pixels wide].
  • Call your designer and ask them to make the body copy area narrower.

 2. You don’t have enough larger type.

Headings [bigger, sometimes colorful lines of text] break up text. They tell the skimmers [who are the vast majority of web-readers] what they are reading about.

I’m a skimmer. If there is not enough info in the headings, I tune out [not proud, just easily bored]. Headings are not meant to live only at the ‘Are you ready???!!!!’ line right before the buy now button or other call-to-action. Headings are designed for the 30 second readers. When you read down a page that is trying to sell something, you should be able to ONLY read the headings and know the gist of what the writer is selling.

Quick Fixes:

  • Learn about what Headings are in WordPress and how to use them. This article explains them in detail. Your theme may or may not have specific design settings programmed for Headings. Give it a go!
  • Don’t have access to changing your Headings? Fake it. Pick a large font that you like in a color that matches your site and make some images of important lines of text to insert in between your copy. This is easy-peasy using any program that allows you to type and save images as a jpeg or png.
  • Call your designer.

3. Your tone lacks confidence or over-explains.

This one is a lot harder to quantify. But the short explanation is that YOU don’t totally buy what you’re selling. You are expecting people to say no, so you are addressing pain points that they may not have.

For example: You’re selling a retreat. And in the FAQ’s, you tell the reader all about all the logistics, including how you know they will be worried about mosquitos, and you will make sure there is plenty of repellant. Well, Maggie Q. Reader was totally sold until she hit ‘mosquitos’. Because Maggie was not worried about them. But she is now. And now a $2500 retreat sounds more like a nightmarish horror-movie bug show in a third world country. No thank you.

See, this is what happens when you project YOUR worries onto your copy.

Related to this is an age-old sales concept called ‘talking past the close’. This is what happens when they’re in. they want to buy. You have them. But instead of saying, BUY THIS RIGHT HERE, you start telling them aaaaaallllll of the other reasons why they need the thing. And now they’re bored. And they think you’re trying too hard. And they don’t want to buy it anymore.

Quick Fixes:

  • Research. Ask as many people as you can about what might concern them about your idea. Address the things that people are actually concerned about in a way that says, “I GOT THIS. You’re in good hands.”
  • Trim the fat. Say things once, maybe twice. Telling people why they neeeeeeed something over and over is patronizing and ineffective if you have readers who possess average or above intellect.
  • Make it easy for them to buy. Does anyone ENJOY scrolling for a half hour to get to a buy now button? I think not.
  • Hire a copywriter. I mean it. A good one can change your business for GOOD.

4. Your text is too dense and I don’t know where to look.

Columns! Single spaced tiny type! Wide pages! Images! Glitter! More images! Headlines! Different Fonts! Colors! EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“What the fuck am I supposed to be focusing on?

And why are you both yelling at me AND confusing me?

I’m desperate to read all this, but I just can’t.

So I’m going back to the safety of Facebook for a while.

Good luck with your thing.

I’m sure other people will read all of that. Must just not be for me.”

Quick fixes:

  • One column of text or two. You can’t have both.
  • When in doubt, make the text bigger. And increase the line height (the space between lines).
  • Choose cohesive images and don’t over-do it.
  • Show your work to someone and ask for a real take on what could be removed. And listen.

You have to meet your people where they are and think like THEM. It’s not about what you want. It’s about what THEY need.


In celebration of walking the talk on this one, I’m delighted to announce the first Pay-It-Forward Scholarship recipient. She is a gifted musician from Portland, and is receiving a $500 scholarship from you all amazing people to help her re-write her copy to better reflect her deepest work in the world.

The fund is always accepting contributions. If you have a spare five bucks and want to help another brilliant person get to where they’re going, contribute here. I will double match anything contributed by 4/8/14 at midnight Pacific [that means, you put in $5, I put in $10, total contribution is $15]. Currently the fund has $6124 in it and I am actively working on spreading the wealth. If you’re doing great work and need a scholarship for something Makeness Media offers, let me know.

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