What's More Important: Copy or Design?

Design vs Copy: The Final Countdown to Conversions


In their manic pursuit of online marketing success, many entrepreneurs and marketers chase after “the latest thing” - whether it's social media, SEO or online video - in an effort to get noticed and get traffic to their websites and landing pages. They get so caught up in getting traffic and “buzz” that they forget about arguably the most critical piece of  the online marketing process, conversion.

Think about it: What good does it do for you to generate lots and lots of attention for your online marketing, to gain thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans and likes, to drive hordes of new traffic to your website if you don't see an increase in conversions – ultimately sales, but also important are the intermediate conversion steps that can lead to sales, including email list opt-ins, webinar signups, White Paper downloads, etc.

Convert Or Else!!

This is critical for your online marketing success: you must have conversions if you want to stay in business!

So what's involved in developing a website, email campaign, comprehensive online marketing campaign or landing page that converts? Indeed, your website or landing page has to have traffic before you can see conversions. And two things that must be in place in order for your online marketing campaigns to convert at a high rate are effective design and compelling, persuasive copywriting.

Before we go any further, let's define some terms:

What is design as it relates to online marketing? Design involves the way all of the visual elements of a webpage, landing page, email, etc. are arranged and displayed. These elements include navigation structure, graphics such as logos and photographs, background colors and font size and style.

What is copywriting? In its most basic definition, copywriting is selling through the written word. It is the art and science of using words and phrases to persuade readers to take the specific action you want them to take, whether that is to sign up for your e-newsletter, buy one or more products from your online store, take the next step in the sales process (such as downloading and reading your latest Case Study or White Paper) or picking up the phone to call you to schedule a consultation.

What is conversion? Conversion is getting the visitor to your website or landing page or the reader of your email to take the specific action you want them to take, whether it's buying from your online store now, making a reservation for your new restaurant or signing up for your webinar.

In effective, highly-converting online marketing, design and copywriting both matter. Some people focus on one or the other, to their detriment, but you need both. They can also add lots of “flavor” to your marketing. Think of effective copy and design as “ham and cheese” for your online marketing sandwich!

It's Pretty! But Does It Convert? 

It's Pretty! But Does It Convert?

Let's talk about what makes for effective copywriting and design. Notice my use of the word effective. By that I mean do the copy and design work independently and together to help increase conversion rates.

There is a lot of pretty, flashy, “cool” design on many business websites (sites that need to convert) that may get attention, that may make website or landing page visitors go “ooh” and “aah”, but does nothing to help with the conversion process.

Often the effect is the opposite. Design that is visually appealing, but not an effective conversion tool can, in many cases actually cause conversion rates to sink like a large rock in a deep ocean of online marketing failure.

Keep reading... In a moment, we'll talk about effective design vs. design that is “cool”, “hip” or “cutting-edge” but likely to make your conversion rates tank.

So what makes for effective copywriting? Remember that fundamentally, copywriting is selling through the written word. You are conducting a sales call in print. You need to do some of the very same things a high-producing sales rep would do on the phone or in person with a prospect.

  • You need to build rapport with the prospect.
  • You need to gain his trust.
  • You need to answer the question he's asking himself (maybe subconsciously) about the idea of investing in your product: “What's in it for me?” So tell him what's in it for him. Tell him how he will benefit from doing business with you, or from taking the conversion step you want him to take, whether that's buying from your online store right now, or signing up for your email newsletter.


“The difference between the almost right word & the right word…it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning” Mark Twain


It's human nature to want to try to win attention and impress readers by talking about us, about our wonderful company and our wonderful product. But here's some shocking news: your reader doesn't care!

He cares about himself, his wants, his needs, his dreams and his painful, pressing problems. If you want to gain his attention in the insanely crowded and noisy online marketplace, if you want win and keep his interest in your message, focus your message mainly on him, not on you, your product or your company.

When evaluating the potential effectiveness of your copy, “step outside yourself” and place yourself in the mind of your reader. Ask yourself if your message will appeal to him. Don't care whether it “wows” anyone other than him, including yourself, your boss or you coworkers. Don't care whether or not it would win a literary prize, care only that it help raise your conversion rates!

Teaching a full-fledged course on effective copywriting is beyond the scope of this article. Here's an outstanding free resource that many world-class copywriters rely on for great copywriting education and training.

Something to remember about copywriting: It's critically important to the success of your online marketing campaigns. No matter how effective your design is, without solid copywriting, your marketing efforts will most likely flop.

Avoid The “Design Trap”

Avoid The “Design Trap”

For your online marketing campaigns to achieve the high conversion rates you want, you need effective design to compliment your copy. Notice the use of the word “effective”. Just because design dazzles and entertains doesn't mean it's an effective conversion tool.

A lot of designers get caught up in crafting cool looking “bells and whistles” that do will nothing to help you convert and can very likely kill conversion rates. So do lots of online entrepreneurs, business owners and marketing directors. Avoid this “design trap” and focus on conversions.

So what are some of the hallmarks of effective design – design that helps you enjoy higher conversion rates? Simplicity is near the very top of this list. It will help your reader stay focused on your message and on the action you want him to take. Complexity of design (although it may win awards from a panel of artists who couldn't sell their way out of a paper bag) will slaughter your conversion rates. Keep your design simple and uncluttered.

Use images and photography that are relevant to your message. Avoid bland, boring, generic stock photography like the plague! A side note, but very important – have compelling, persuasive captions for your photographs. These are an important but often overlooked part of the online copywriting mix.

When it comes to copywriting and design that convert, and using them together powerfully, nothing is more critical than your call to action. Use design elements that draw your reader's eyes towards the call to action part of the page. Here's a fantastic example of leveraging the power of effective design to draw a reader's attention to the call to action. It may not win any awards for cool, pretty design, but you don't care do you? You care about using design that converts!

Another item specific to landing page design: don't include any of your website's navigate buttons on your landing page. Your landing page is the “moment of truth” in the conversion process. You want everything on it to be focused on helping the reader focus on converting. Set your landing page up in such a way that your reader has only three choices:

  • Close the browser window
  • Hit the back button
  • Convert!

Navigation buttons are potentially very distracting at a moment when you need your reader to be focused. Leave them off your landing page!

Let's face it. Online marketing is a tough business. You have lots of competition. Your potential customers are busy; they are easily distracted. You need every advantage you can get in order to increase your conversion rates – the thing you care about the most in your online marketing process.

Don't let your design or your copy hinder your efforts to land more customers. They are both critical to your success. Used together smartly, they can be an extremely powerful combination that can cause your conversion rates to skyrocket!

An effective landing page can be an extremely useful addition to your online marketing toolbox. Lander is proud to offer you a full suite of landing page templates that are easy to set up and professionally designed to help you increase your conversion rates big time! And you can try them out for free!


Happy Marketing!!