Hacking Visual Hierarchy & CRO Copywriting (CXL Week 2 Review)

As mentioned in this blog post, I’m currently studying for a Minidegree in Conversion Optimisation with CXL.

Here are my thoughts and insights from the second week of study.

The “Secret” to improving a supermarket’s average spend

Over the past week, I learned something that I can’t stop thinking about…

People are weird and irrational, and there’s much we don’t understand. For example, why do shoppers moving in a counterclockwise direction spend on average $2.00 more at the supermarket?

The above is taken from the module “Pricing and Pricing Pages”. As soon as I read it, I thought about some of the supermarkets I’ve visited...


I realized they usually have two things:

  • Entrances on the right and exits on the left

  • Store layouts that encourage counter-clockwise movement 

For example, the supermarket I visited yesterday had guardrails which made it extremely difficult not to move in a counter-clockwise direction. Now I know why!

Despite visiting dozens of different supermarkets in many different countries, I’ve never noticed this before. 

But they must all be in on this “secret” to increasing average customer spend.

And just like supermarkets, there are some "quick and easy" things we can do to improve our website's conversions.

Here are a few I can pass on from week 2.

Check your website's visual hierarchy

When we meet new people in real life (well, before social distancing!) we place a lot of stock in “first impressions”. The same concept applies to websites we visit.

A study by Google found that 94% of users' first impressions are design related.

Furthermore, making simple changes to the visual hierarchy - the order things stand out on your page - can have a big impact on conversion rates.

This is a really interesting graphic from the CXL Mini-Degree.

visual hierarchy

The numbers represent the sections that people notice in order (measured I think with eye-tracking applications).

Peep Laja from CXL recommends ranking the elements on your website by business objective. If you don’t have an objective, how can you know what to prioritize?

The website above uses a big, beautiful image (sorry to any vegetarians reading!) to elicit an emotion (hunger) from the viewer. They are quite literally “selling the sizzle and not the steak”.

(The "Don't write - Telegraph" section also shows that good concepts are timeless...)

How to hack your website’s visual hierarchy

Want to improve your website’s hierarchy and increase your conversion rates?

Studies have found that people look for two things - simplicity and prototypically.

Prototypical essential means it’s “very typical” of the group.

This is why many websites in the same niche often look alike. People know what they are and don’t need to think to navigate or take action.

Peep shared this 7-point checklist to improve your website’s visual hierarchy.

  1. 1
    Research your audience and the sites they visit most. 
  2. 2

    Create a mashup for your own site with all the “working” components you uncover.

  3. 3
    Obey the rules of cognitive fluency and put things where visitors expect them.
  4. 4
    Rely on your own colors, logo, and typeface to communicate clearly and subtly.
  5. 5

    When in doubt, less is more

  6. 6

    Make sure your site fits the expectations for pricing, aesthetics, speed, etc.

  7. 7

    Retain originality and don’t make your website a boring clone.

Get feedback on your website

It’s not mentioned on the list, but getting feedback on your website from people in the niche (and not your immediate family) is also a good idea.

There’s a great article from Geekflare that shares a few ways to do this for free, most notably using this reddit group.

Another good way is to take a look at other websites in your niche and grade their pages (using the graphic above as an example). Once you get a feel for this it makes it easier to apply to your own website.

It is at this point that I should say I am far from happy about the design of my own website. So please hire me so I can employ a professional designer, ha!

An intro to Conversion Copywriting

After I finished the “Best Practices” module, I moved on to the “Intro to Conversion Copywriting” module.

This is more in my comfort zone as I have worked as a copywriter, taken paid courses and read many books on the subject.

In this light, I was very impressed with the content that Peep shared.

He recommends using the 4-1 scale mentioned by Michael Masterson (An “A” list copywriter and serial entrepreneur) in his book “Copy Logic”.

This is the same system Agora Financial uses to train its junior copywriters. I was introduced to it during a year-long writing program with one of their copy chiefs.

How to get better at copywriting

The grading system works by scoring any element of copy - a headline, a subject line, a lead, an offer, etc - using a 4-point system.

I’m paraphrasing, but it goes like this:

1.  Hated it. Would click back ASAP.
2. Wouldn’t read further or take any form of action.
3.  Good copy. Would test it.
4.  Outstanding copy. Taking action is a no-brainer.

So how can you use this to improve your own copy?

Simply apply the 4-point grading system to different sections of your copy. For better results, get at least 4 people to do it for you.

For example, if you wanted to improve an email, the 5 sections you need to grade are:

1. Your subject line / second-subject line
2. Your lead / intro
3. Your body section
4. Your close / offer
5. Your P.S

The aim is to get an average score of > 3.0. However, as advertising legend David Ogilvy famously said:

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

This means if your headline / subject line is less than a three it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your copy is.

For blog posts, there are tools that can help like CoSchedule’s headline analyzer.

To get better at email subject lines, you need to practice writing many variations.

(And in a future blog post, I will share some formulas that will help you write dozens for the same email…)

Try using the 4-point grading system with some of the marketing emails in your inbox.

Keep the good ones in their own folder so you can build your own swipe file. There are also sites like swiped.co which have good examp
les to follow.

CRO in the wild

This week I was sent an invitation to join a webinar for creating lead magnets. The subject interested me and it was co-run by an app I bought on AppSumo and never use.

However, their 2-stage form turned me off and I didn’t submit my details.


Well, the first stage was to confirm my email. That’s all the information they need really.

The second stage is shown below. Can you see why I didn’t join up?

cro web form

I am used to signing up for things (and this goes back to prototypically) and ticking a box that says something like “I authorize you to send me emails”.

But read the small print above…

It says, “I can opt out at any time” - but I don’t want to opt in at all!!!

I don’t want to wait until emails start hitting my already over-crowded inbox and then go through the hassle of unsubscribing.

Besides, I’m already on one of their lists so this doesn’t make sense. Or maybe I’m just getting cranky in my old age…

Let me know what you think about this (or anything from this week’s update) in the comments section.

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