KickoffLabs Blog:

How to Use Microcopy to Boost Conversions

By Josh Ledgard

Nov 10th, 2015


Ever heard the advice: don’t sweat the small stuff? Clearly whoever said that didn’t know the first thing about Internet marketing. So, we’re going to flip that on its head and say, yes, please sweat the small stuff. Every single detail matters when increasing your site’s conversion rate.

Here’s a fun little bit of trivia: Google once tested 41 shades of blue (not grey) to find the one that resonates best with their users. It may seem odd, if not borderline obsessive, to search through various shades to find the one shade that no one even thinks twice about when they use Google, but here’s why it makes a difference:

The small stuff influences our subconscious minds by mimicking our internal dialogue. It can be, and often is, much more effective than big, grandiose gestures.

As we’ve seen in the example with Google, the small stuff can be the color of a button. A blue button can make us believe that a brand is safe and trustworthy, while a red button can make us feel the need to act right now.

The small stuff can also be copy, or microcopy to be exact. This microcopy can provide quick and easy information, and disarm us with delightful exchanges.

In this post, we’re going to discuss how to use microcopy to convert like a boss. Who’s with me?

Check out 9 killer examples of microcopy. Subscribe to download this extra resource now.

What is Microcopy?

Microcopy is a word or phrase that guides your site visitors into some sort of action. You’ll usually find microcopy on call-to-action buttons. But that’s not the only place –  here’s a non-exhaustive list of where microcopy lives:

  • Buttons
  • Confirmation messages & emails
  • Error messages
  • Error (404) pages
  • Form fields
  • Form instructions
  • Lead magnets
  • Loading screens
  • Menu navigation
  • Opt-in forms
  • Thank You emails
  • And many more…
  • It’s safe to say that a big chunk of a user’s experience with your brand relies on microcopy, but we aren’t treating it like the big deal that it is. Sadly, because it’s micro, it’s so easy to overlook. But overlooking microcopy can make your brand sound robotic or, worse yet, like your competitors. shudder

    ‘Overlooking microcopy can make your brand sound robotic or, worse yet, like your competitors.’ Click To Tweet

    Are you using the same tired language as everyone else to discuss your customers’ concerns? Do you even have a unique brand voice? If you do, does your brand voice suddenly turn robotical when you need to get down to business (i.e. the copy on your sign up form or opt-in button)?

    That’s okay, because we’re going to fix it. Today is the day that we make your microcopy the stuff of legends. In the next two sections, let’s take a closer look at the different types of microcopy and how to use them effectively in your conversion strategy.

    Two Types of Microcopy

    Microcopy can be informative and it can be delightful. Occasionally, it can be both.

    Depending on your brand, you may not need your microcopy to be tongue-in-cheek. In fact, that could be very bad if you’re hoping to establish an intellectual, high-minded brand.

    Whether or not it’s witty, microcopy should always be informative. It should describe what’s happening, what’s wrong, or what to do. It should also infer why the audience needs to follow this specific action.

    Keep in mind that microcopy needs to reflect and be consistent with your brand’s voice and tone. For example, why use the word “submit” on your newsletter’s call-to-action opt-in form when you’re a fun, young brand who wants your visitors to “join a community of 5,831 go-getters”?

    The Best Darn Microcopy Tips

    While you can use microcopy anywhere on your website, it’s particularly effective at boosting conversions. Microcopy can be a motivating guide on landing pages, an instructive placeholder text inside of form fields, or the persuasive phrase on an opt-in button. Each of these places provides an opportunity to convert one-time visitors into loyal customers.

    Not sure how to inject effective microcopy into your website? Here’s a list of my favorite tips:

    Use Your Voice

    Use your brand’s voice to personalize your microcopy. I love how the to do app Teux Deux reiterates its branding with energetic microcopy:


    “Let’s deux this!” Courtesy of Teux Deux

    The popular audio distribution service Soundcloud creatively borrows from timeless Beatles’ lyrics to populate its FAQ page:


    “Help! I need somebody.” Courtesy of Soundcloud

    The takeaway: Draw in your audience with a personalized brand voice.

    Make It Useful

    Explain to your audience every step of the way what you need from them and why. Your microcopy can provide a lot of great information that supports the user.


    “Email Address. So we can get a hold of you.” Courtesy of Wufoo

    One of my favorite ways to use microcopy is on 404 Error pages. Have you optimized your error page? What happens if someone follows a broken link on your site? It happens more often than you think. Take a look at how Zurb guides lost site visitors back into useful information.


    “We’ve looked practically everywhere. / 404 Error.” Courtesy of Zurb

    The takeaway: Anticipate what your site visitors may be looking for, and include it on your 404 error page.

    Inspire Good Feelings

    Get your audience to trust you by providing valuable content with a smooth delivery. Use conversational language that informs without being overly formal. Check out how these two forms use informal microcopy that gets the message across:

    ronnie johnson

    “Order placed.” Courtesy of Ronnie Johnson


    “Sign me up, buttercup!” Courtesy of Groupnotes, KickoffLabs Customer

    The takeaway: Customers love it when you speak their language.

    Provide Direction

    One of the highest callings of microcopy is to provide direction. Don’t let your audience wander around unsure of what to do, not when you can help it. Check it:


    “If you are reading this, you didn’t push play yet.” Courtesy of Bounce Exchange

    Another biggie is to guide them through your form and show them exactly what you expect:

    morgan knepper

    Form field validation Courtesy of Morgan Knepper

    The takeaway: Microcopy is all about clarity. Make sure your audience knows what’s expected of them.

    Take Away the Excuses

    From the customer’s perspective, there’s a ton of reasons not to do business with your brand. It stems from the fear of the unknown. Instead of crossing your fingers that they’ll overcome their fears, influence the conversion by removing the barriers for conversion. Nothing does that better than the word “free.” Observe:


    “What are you waiting for? Get started FREE today!” Courtesy of KickoffLabs


    “Download these free design assets! And get FREE graphics, fonts, themes, photos & more every week!” Courtesy of Creative Market

    The takeaway: Make it easy for them to say yes by removing the risk.

    Final Thoughts

    Microcopy is a valuable resource that most brands overlook. But don’t make that same mistake. Take every little opportunity to delight your audience and reinforce your brand identity. Do sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.

    Check out 9 killer examples of microcopy. Subscribe to download this extra resource now.

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