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What Is Microcopy and How Can It Help Your Website

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SEO, meta descriptions, keywords, al text and UX- digital — it seems that online innovative jargon, trends, techniques and strategies never stop changing and reinventing. The online marketing world hasn’t stayed the same for months now. It’s up to you as a website owner to be up on the trends.

Microcopy is a great example of a word that has just recently entered the digital marketing sphere.

But What the Heck Really is Microcopy?

In short, microcopy is what you would expect it to mean: small pieces of copy. Specifically though, microcopy is the small chunks of text within your website.

Examples of microcopy are:

  • Error messages
  • Example usernames and passwords in your login forms
  • Payment instructions
  • Security notes
  • Terms and conditions
  • Any instruction on how to use your site
  • Any buttons and menus

Should I Care About Microcopy?

Microcopy isn’t exactly a new concept. It’s always been there in our websites. Yet, only recently have marketing analysts begun to understand how much microcopy in our Web content matters, as well as how much it affects the quality and effectiveness of our Web content.

Many marketing and copywriting authorities currently overlook microcopy in favor of focusing on larger pieces of content such as the home page, about us and sales texts. After all, that’s the really meaty content that compels customers and gets sales- right?

You start to realize the importance of microcopy when you begin to take a look at your Web visitors’ online journey map

Of course, there’s a reason you designed your website in the first place. It wasn’t just simply for the entertainment of potential passers-by. No doubt, that whether you are a not-for-profit organization, an eCommerce business or a company that promotes their services or products online, your website is there to encourage Web visitors to act in a certain way.

It doesn’t matter if you seek sales conversions, e-mail subscriptions or any other beneficial customer behavior. Microcopy can help you achieve the purpose of your website in three crucial ways.

  1. Microcopy Guides Your Website Visitors and Encourages Them to Stick Around. Research conducted by Kiss Metrics found that the number one reason a web visitor will leave your website before advancing further is poor navigation.

This means that potential customers that visit your website won’t continue through the ideal web visitor journey, if they can’t find what they need quickly. The odds are against you turning web visitors into customer if they will be more tempted to hit that backspace button and leave your site before they’ve even started.

Where your web visitors go will, therefore, depend on two things:

  1. What they came to your website for in the first place
  2. How your website is designed to guide your visitor to the solution they are seeking

This is why microcopy such as links, instructions, directions and error messages are crucial to achieving ROI from your website.

Microcopy guides the visitor to your website through your ideal, planned visitor journey. Think of microcopy as traffic lights or road signs. Without them, they can easily get lost and if they get lost and the web visit is not optimized.

Take a look at Zen Desk’s guiding microcopy:

zendeskPhoto credit
Image: http://www.unmatchedstyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/mc-zendesk.jpg

Now take a look at Base Camp’s two examples below of microcopy that guides and directs visitors to its website:

Photo credit: unmatched style.com

Zen Desk and Base Camp both show great examples of microcopy that guides the Web visitor. These buttons that say “try it free” and “see photos and pricing” clearly guides the website visitor quickly to the next step of their journey through this website. A website visitor doesn’t need to work too hard to find the link to take them to what they want to see next.

You can see how Base Camp’s microcopy carefully instructs the website visitor with this sentence:

“Be sure to enter the billing address associated with your credit card.”

This simple piece of microcopy makes a big difference to the user’s experience. By being specific about what information their visitors need to enter, they are preventing error further down the line and disrupting the ideal visitor journey. In such a way, their journey through the website is quicker, smoother and more enjoyable.

  1. Microcopy Generates Trust. Did you know that online shoppers are still concerned about providing personal data? A survey conducted by PayPal, which questioned more than 15,000 adults, showed that 46 percent of Americans still fear providing payment details online. These security concerns also continue to put off shoppers from using mobile or online payments.

The good news is that your microcopy can make a big difference in reassuring your customers that entering personal data is safe.

Notice how Base Camp’s microcopy reassures visitors that their payment is secure.

Photo credit: unmatched style.com

The detailed information here answers the visitors concerns and questions, providing clear reassurance and making them feel safe to proceed through the final steps.

  1. Microcopy Subtly Communicates Your Brand Message in Big Ways.Microcopy isn’t only functional for your website’s journey map. The small details in your Web content can make a big difference to how your Web content consistently reflects and strengthens your brand.

Take a look at Moo’s microcopy here:

Photo credit www.polon.co.uk

The detailed consideration of the microcopy here reflects the brand. The wording of “once a month (ish)” shows their playful and informal branding. Here, Moo’s microcopy ensures that their brand is consistently reflected across their website content, which can reassure user’s that your brand is authentic.

Note: Don’t get carried away here, make sure that your microcopy truly reflects your brand. You really don’t want to be creating light-hearted and fun microcopy if, for example, the service or products that you offer should reflect sincerity or professionalism.

A Checklist to Create Effective Microcopy

  1. Decide what your goal is for your website content. Is your focus on sales conversions? E-mail subscriptions?
  2. Identify your Web visitors’ ideal journey through your website in order to achieve your marketing goal.
  3. Check each stage of your ideal customer journey. Evaluate the microcopy at each of these stages, and make sure that the microcopy guides your visitor smoothly, easily and directly.
  4. Identify the different needs and concerns of your web visitor at each stage of the journey. Provide detailed information in your microcopy to address any concerns or questions that your web visitor may have.
  5. Craft creative microcopy that reflects your brand for consistent and authentic branding at any given opportunity. The magic is in the detail.

About the author


Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.


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