Microcopy: Tiny Words That Make A Huge Impact On Conversions

Pop quiz time! When you think about optimizing your website to increase conversions, what are some of the first things that come to mind?

Do you think about copy? Headlines? The need for a strong call to action?

If you thought about any of those things, you aren’t alone. Recently Ott mentioned in the Mastering The Call To Action article, a study of Visual Website Optimizer’s customers shows most people are testing:

  • CTA Buttons—30%
  • Headlines—20%
  • Layout—10%
  • Copy —8%

But what if this obsession over headlines and CTA buttons is misplaced?

What if the answer to better conversions is to start small?

What if tweaking the small stuff, like the tiny bit of copy next to the credit card field or the wording of a specific link could transform your hesitant visitors into confident leads & buyers?

Short copy, big wins

An ecommerce site that I analyzed recently had a payment page where 84.71% of the traffic proceeded to buy. I calculated that if we can increase that to 90%, that would result in 461 more orders and additional $87,175/month. That would be 23.94% growth in revenue. So yes— “small” gains here can be very big.

Peep Laja

It’s like when Joshua Porter noticed he was getting a ton of form errors on the “enter billing information” page, he added a tiny bit of copy to remind users to enter the billing address associated with their credit card, and noticed the errors went away, “thus saving support time and increasing revenue on the improved conversion”

Form Microcopy

Or when Veeam noticed through their on page survey, that many visitors were asking for a price—which they couldn’t display due to partner agreements—so they tested changing the phrase from “request a quote” to “request pricing” and saw a massive 161.66% increase in clicks to their lead gen form.


Veeam control


Veeam variation use.

What is microcopy?

Microcopy refers to the short-form copy used to advertise your product and brand, in order to enhance the experience, add personality, and most importantly have the ability to reduce friction and get people to take action.

Though not often talked about, microcopy is everywhere, and in many cases, might influence a user’s decisions more than the big headline or body copy.

Why? Because it’s closer to the point of conversion.

Look at the difference removing Buffer’s “What do you want to share? “ makes, in how you might feel about interacting with the app.

Buffer Microcopy
Buffer without microcopy

For a software company whose success hinges on whether customers actually use the product, not having those six words severs the personal connection with the experience, and makes it feel like you’re using just another piece of software.

Yelp’s microcopy on the other hand, gives the user a very subtle call to action, but one that helps them unlock the full benefit benefit of the site.

Yelp Microcopy

Now before I continue, I’d like to stress that if you have little to no traffic, microcopy certainly isn’t a quick fix.

Yes, it will probably make your user experience more persuasive, but your time will be much better spent focusing on identifying your target market, customer development, and data driven traffic acquisition.

That said…

Bad microcopy might not break your user experience, but well crafted microcopy can make the UX noticeably better.

Good microcopy comes from knowing your user


In my work, I’ve noticed a great number of user experiences are littered with their companies internal language.

This is mostly because a great number of user experiences are designed without ever involving the users. If I visited your site right now what would I see?

Looking at the two examples we’ve already mentioned, Joshua Porter’s form field was added as a response to receiving the same error message over and over again.

The microcopy wasn’t added arbitrarily, but as a direct response to user feedback.

Form Microcopy

In this fantastic article about preventing bad microcopy on Smashing Magazine, author Bill Beard talks about running usability tests, and how the test moderator should be paying attention to more than just the interaction between user & site:

Bill Beard

[…]make a point to really listen to — and take notes on — the actual words the user says during testing[…]

Listen to the inflection in their voice as they read microcopy: Did they say that label or term with a question in their voice? Don’t hesitate to have your moderator follow up on copy. Have them go back and ask the user whether they’ve understood that label.

Listening to user feedback and hearing trepidation in their users voices is likely the reason why Shopify included this tiny bit of text into their signup form—You can change your store name afterwards.

It may seem insignificant, but those seven words calms the little voice in your head saying things like:

What if I pick the wrong name? The whole future of my online business hinges on this moment, and oh God, what am I doing?

I’m not ready to start a business, I haven’t even picked a name yet. You know what, this is stupid, I’ll come back when I’m more prepared

Addressing your users “monkey brain” with microcopy can help them feel at ease and ultimately help improve conversions.

How microcopy can improve UX & conversions

Microcopy can be used in a variety of places to “enhance the user experience.” Places such as:

  • 404 pages;
  • “Loading” pages;
  • Confirmation pages;
  • Welcome Message;
  • Error Messages.

As with most things, it may take some testing to find where your microcopy will have the greatest effect.

I highly recommend checking out The Standardistas: The Craft Of Words – Part two: microcopy for deeper reading on microcopy’s role in experience design.

Let’s dig into some case studies.

Case Study—17.18% increase in conversions by adding “View Bundle” above CTA

Our friend Michael Aagaard published a case study about a Danish ecommerce site who sold car care product kits.

Product Packages

The problem was, with nothing but a image thumbnail & prominent “Add To Basket” button, it wasn’t clear that you could click through see what was included in the bundle. Potential customers thought they were being asked to buy the entire kit sight unseen—which obviously hurt conversions.

By adding a simple “View Package” link above the main call to action, Michael was able to increase the amount of people viewing the full bundle, and as a result, increased conversion to sales by 17.18%

Case Study—How Yoast built the perfect checkout


While the microcopy alone can’t take the credit for the 11.30% increase in conversions in this case study, it certainly plays a significant role.




Yoast Cart

Adding small bits of text such as (there will be no additional costs) next to the Total, changing “remove” next to the product price to simply “x” and adding a “<<Continue shopping” link” helps keep the cart experience more streamlined.

According to Thijs, Yoast’s behavioural scientist, the “no additional costs” text was added because hidden costs are the #1 reason why people abandon shopping carts.

Other minor tweaks—like the progress bar and button design—were to take advantage of a person’s inherent desire for forward progress…

Enter my details
Enter details button

…and the inline form validation giving positive feedback—by being green & displaying a little green checkmark when completed—would give the visitor instant feedback and instant validation, making them more likely to keep filling out the form.

Email address Yoast.

Overall, these & a few other small changes helped Yoast see an increase of 30% in successful transactions.

Case Study 3—Insound gets more visitors completing checkout flow with 2 words

A while back, Insound created a new checkout process designed to be stunning on tablets & mobile phones. It was absolutely beautiful, and unlike anything the site’s users had ever seen.

Unfortunately, the team at Insound noticed that it was underperforming compared to it’s predecessor, and with a big holiday marketing campaign coming up, they couldn’t afford even the slightest dip in performance.

Both Insound & Digital Optimization firm Clearhead suspected that having users pressing “continue” through each step of the funnel was causing confusion & ultimately abandoning before reaching the Bill/Ship details page.

So, they tested 3 button copy variations against the control (the button labeled “Continue.”)

Insound Shipping and billing page.

Even though Clearhead suspected “Almost Done” would be the winner, the simpler “Review Order” provided a 39.4% CTR to the next page, and now more than half of the visitors move on to the next page before checking out.

For Insound, this is a particularly great win, as the additional revenue lift didn’t come from any additional sales & marketing spend, making their margins far better than before.

Case Study 4—11% increase for mortgage lead generation

Conversion Voodoo conducted an optimization project for a mortgage company that ultimately drove a 37% increase in completed refinancing applications from their site.

What stood out was an implementation of a simple checkbox on the front page of their website. Users were asked to check that box, and enter their first name and email address to begin the refinancing process.

Check for a better rate today

If you’ve never tried to get a better mortgage rate, you should know the application process just plain sucks.

It usually involves a 20 minute process of filling out a form with a million questions to get many details about where you’ve lived, how much you make, how much you pay in taxes etc.

So, by adding this checkbox at the head of the form, users reaffirm their commitment to getting a better rate. For ConversionVoodoo’s client, it sure paid off, by adding 11% more completed forms—an increase of hundreds of more applications per month.

Zappos site search

In a study of 27 different sites, marketing agency Branded 3, found that users who use site search convert 2-3X more than those who do not.

This is consistent with findings by Avanash Kaushik, SearchSpring.net, and many others.

Conversion rate chart.

If this is the case with your site (If your Google Analytics is configured properly, you can check by looking here) then why present visitors with a generic “Enter Your Keywords, Sku or Product #” phrase?

Enter Your Keywords

Why not take your most popular search terms (found here) or categories and pre-populate the search bar with those terms?


I created a quick mock-up of what this might look like if we applied the above data to the Ikea.com website:

Mock Ikea text

Using real data doesn’t just add a subtle layer of context to the overall user experience, it helps to expedite the shopping process for visitors who were coming to the the site with the intent to purchase items in those exact product categories.

In my research, I’ve also found that internal site search isn’t the only place you can find inspiration for what words you can use to enhance site search.

Tastebook, a site for sharing recipes and compiling your own custom cookbooks, for example, has had several iterations of their prefilled search box over the years.

TasteBook   Cookbooks  recipes  and friends.

Interestingly enough, looking at this case study by Director of Marketing Analytics by Erica Curtis, it appears as though their most recent iteration of site search text corresponds with their second highest performing Ads campaign.

Tastebook top ad performers

Their highest performer, “Create A Cookbook”, has also become a primary navigation item, which leads me to believe that these seemingly small tweaks have had significant performance improvements.

Using microcopy to answer “UGH, Why Do You Need That?!”

Error on checkout page.

In a usability study by Baymard Institute, they learned that customers felt as though their privacy was being invaded when they were required to enter seemingly unnecessary personal information, like a required phone number field, without any further explanation or help.

Every single person in the study complained at some point that some part of the process asked for too much personal information.

During user testing at Apple.com one test subject refused to give up her phone number, anxiously clamoring: “Look, why do they need my phone number? What do they need that for? They don’t need it!

What was interesting however, was that users were far more forgiving when the reason why the information was necessary was clearly visible around the form input.

Checkout experience.

In fact, the anxious test subject quoted in the beginning of this section provided her phone number to another website without any complaints[…]

The checkout is the “moment of truth” for your customer so it’s especially important to remove as much friction as possible.

For new buyers especially, something as simple as (for shipping related questions) can go a long way in establishing trust at the most critical point during the buying process.


Truthfully, we could talk about microcopy all day, because it can be found everywhere, from pricing pages, to the security messages under your optin forms, to the tiny little reminders in your checkout form.

But here’s what I’d like to know: where do you think these tiny phrases will provide the most impact on your website?

Special thanks to Mario Krivokapic for the significant contributions to this article.

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Join the conversation Add your comment

  1. This is an amazing post. I’ve never thought to call CTAs microcopy or relate to them as such. Great job on sharing all of the examples. Must read for all inbound marketers.

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Thanks Mary! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      It was amazing to me doing the research just how much influence these things could have, especially when I took certain microcopy phrases away. It really does make a huge difference, especially when you’re zeroing in on certain areas.

  2. Power read Tommy! Note those action verbs make all the difference ;)

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Thanks Ryan, it was really cool to start looking at all of these things under the microscope.

  3. It was interesting to see Yoast given as an example, if you checkout with Paypal then it adds VAT on, which is a slap in the face when it says there will be no additional costs…
    Not sure if it does that when paying direct via card, I did intend to go back and do that at some point.

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker


      I wonder if they even know about that. Perhaps they should have a different cart that’s targeted towards international buyers?

      Good thing to point out!

  4. Some great ideas shared.

    Implimented a couple as we read this post. We have had some customers confused trying to use their credit card. Maybe the note about entering their information as it is on their statement will help.

    1. Portrait of Tommy Walker

      Oh good!

      I hope that helps. To be sure, you should of course be testing it with a service like Optimizely, but please, be sure to let me know if it helps!

    2. Thanks for the suggestion. Just tried it. Doesn’t work when you break out of frames. (wink)

  5. That is unbelievable that little tweaks can results thousands extra into your pocket..there is so much to learn…which wordpress plugin do you recommend for A/B testing?

  6. thanks for this post. I read and I am going to use it on my new website.

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Microcopy: Tiny Words That Make A Huge Impact On Conversions