Growth Newsletter #066
Welcome to the 563 new marketers and founders who joined last week!
This week we're covering copywriting, SEO list posts, and personalization.
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This week's Insights
Use conditional claims to build more trust
Insight from VeryGoodCopy.
Can you guess which of these two headlines did better than the other?
- 2 reasons why the price of silver will rise steeply
- 2 reasons why the price of silver may rise steeply
You might expect the first to perform better because it’s bolder. It makes a definitive claim: the price of silver will rise.
But according to copywriter Gary Bencivenga, the headline that used “may” outperformed its counterpart by 200%.
The one-word difference qualifies the rest of the statement—it’s a condition telling readers that the claim being made isn’t 100% certain. So it feels more realistic. Even credible.
Here are some examples of how companies use conditional claims to build more trust:
- "A/B testing can transform your business—if you do it right” (headline on VentureBeat)
- “Zoom is probably the most well-received collaboration tool that we’ve seen...in 20 years.” (the first testimonial shown on Zoom’s homepage)
- “When it’s time to get granular regarding competitor traffic stats, the Top Pages report in Traffic Analytics is hard to beat.” (an announcement from Semrush)
Note the italicized phrases that create a condition—they ground the claims and make them feel more believable—they’re not absolute statements.
To build more trust with readers, try using* conditional claims in your own copywriting.
One easy way to do it: use an “if... then” statement. Define a clear requirement (if), and then write your promise (then).
*See what we did there? In most of our tactics and recommendations, we use conditional language—we can’t say with 100% certainty that growth will follow.
How to write list posts that generate revenue
Insight from Search Engine Land.
Most list posts (listicles) are utilitarian, boring, and easily copied by rivals.
They have titles like:
- The Top 10 DSLR Cameras
- The 5 Best CRM Products
- The Complete List of SEO Tools
- And so on
These types of posts may generate a ton of pageviews—but they rarely generate revenue (a common goal of listicles).
You can transform your listicles from generic, copycat content into unique, defensible, revenue-generating assets in five steps. Here's how.
1. Choose novel selection criteria. Most listicles are “Google research papers.” The writer searches a target keyword, skims the search engine results page (SERP), and grabs an assortment of popular things to include in their article. This isn’t effective since you’re recycling the same information as everyone else.
To differentiate your listicle and pique the reader's interest, you need a strong hook.
- Ditch the "best" qualifier and try something less common (e.g., Overlooked / Foundational / Overrated…)
- Target a specific reader or use case (e.g., X for Content Marketers / CMOs / Ad Specialists…)
- Pick a specific product trait (e.g., X Overlooked Browser-Based / Freemium / No Code…)
2. Surface your thought process. Even though you’re curating objective information, your writing still needs to persuade. You are the expert and your job is to persuade the reader that your list is worth trusting. To do that, share your thought process and selection criteria (why you chose what you chose).
- Why did you include it? "It's the most recommended…" or "It's the lowest-priced…"
- Why not other options? "We excluded apps that don't offer a free trial…"
- Is there something novel or unexpected about it? "Though not a conventional SEO tool, this AI content app offers the same keyword research data at a lower price."
3. Share personal experience to demonstrate credibility. Readers can tell when a writer doesn’t have firsthand experience. So even if your articles rank for their target keywords, readers won't trust your advice. If you want your listicles to convert readers, you need to prove to them that you have firsthand experience with the things you're writing about. Here are a few ways to do that.
- Take screenshots of software you're reviewing (any part that can't be accessed without logging in).
- Take your own product photos—even better if you include yourself in the photos.
- Share personal anecdotes about your experience that only a real user could have.
4. Lean on the experiences of others. If you can't experience the product or service firsthand, base your listicle on the experience of people who have. That means surveying and quoting audiences and synthesizing firsthand experiences from users.
- If you have access to a large audience (i.e., email list or social media following), survey them and share your research in the listicle.
- If you don't, interview a subject matter expert and share their insights to lend credibility to your list.
5. Make a single, opinionated recommendation. Listicles are meant to help readers make a decision. Most listicles are good at collecting things but usually go overboard with too many choices. This only makes it harder for the reader. Great listicles go out on a limb and make a strong recommendation. And readers trust it because it was written based on firsthand experience and clear selection criteria.
- For example, the product review site, Wirecutter, reviewed over 250 wine glasses and still managed to come up with a single final recommendation for its readership.
Personalize content for struggling users
Insight from mParticle and Demand Curve.
When users start struggling with a service or an app, they often get discouraged and stop using it entirely.
People don’t tend to continue using things they feel bad at.
For example, a user might stop playing a game if they’re stuck on a single level for many days.
But this struggle is a great opportunity to use personalization to retain users.
By providing personalized support—helpful tips, links to resources, or, in some cases, discounts on helpful upgrades—you can retain users who otherwise churn out of frustration.
You can automate this tactic based on event triggers specific to your service or app. A few examples:
- Mobile games: number of games / levels failed
- Dating apps: number of matches per user
- Educational apps / services: number of failed quizzes
Here’s how this personalization might play out:
The dating app Tinder could calculate the number of matches each user receives and then compare it against the average number of matches across all users. Then it could identify users receiving a relatively low number of matches and deliver personalized content like tips on how to improve their profile. Alternatively, it could offer a discount on an upgrade or special feature that could solve the frustration.
Providing support to struggling users ultimately motivates them to stay.
"Name that Marketing Acronym" via The Daily Carnage
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See you next week.
— Neal & Justin, and the DC team.