How to apply the Sales Page Assessment Process

The Sales Page Assessment Process (SPAP) is a series of questions to help you look at your sales pages and see where your copy is working hard and where it’s gone AWOL.

One of the most common mistakes that’s repeated by many aspiring entrepreneurs is creating sales pages that don’t sell.

It may come from the misplaced belief that the product is so good, it will sell itself. Often though, it’s driven by the business owner not spending any time learning about how to use copy to sell a product.

The problem is likely down to the fact that we’re bombarded with marketing messages near constantly from the moment we wake to the moment we go back to sleep.

Obviously we’re all experts in writing sales copy because we’re so familiar with it. However, a huge amount of the marketing we encounter daily is weak cliches that just goes through the motions of pretending to sell, while doing nothing of the sort.

A few weeks ago, I saw a cold email in my inbox with the subject “Want more sales?”

What a ridiculous waste of an opportunity to communicate with me. Of course I do, but if that’s the best they could do to sell their own product or service, what hope is there they could help me?

They might have well sent an email asking if I wanted more oral sex. An equally pointless rhetorical question to ask, but at least I’d have clicked to open.

The fact is few of us are naturally experts in selling, so if you really want to sell your products, you have to work at it.

The modest aim of SPAP is to be a tiny first step in this process, though a slightly larger step than the Sales Page Assessment Tool (SPAT). SPAP’s aim is to make you look at your copy and understand what it should be doing, while assessing if it is anywhere near achieving that.

It’s just a series of questions to help you work through a sales page from top to bottom and see where you need to improve it.

Creating the sales itinerary

A sales page needs to take the reader on a journey.

That journey starting with the headline and leading down through the page to the Call to Action.

Even weak sales pages will often contain the elements successful copywriters will recommend.

In which case, the page is like the map of a popular tourist destination. There are all the interesting attractions a tourist may expect scattered around, but there’s no cohesive link between them.

The creator of the page has been focused on creating a page that looks great when viewed from a high level.

Get down to street view though and a crazy one way system means it’s near impossible to navigate.

Your job isn’t just to add the expected elements to the page. You have to create the travel itinerary that links them altogether and takes your readers on the exact journey you want them to travel.

The aim of the Sales Page Assessment Process is to help you understand how this can work with your pages and start you thinking about sales pages as things designed to sell, not look pretty.

The Sales Page Assessment Process

Let’s take a look at the questions that form SPAP. They break down to the following nine sections. In case you’ve not downloaded a copy yet, you can download it from this page.

Before you start, bear in mind that SPAP poses questions without providing answers. They’re designed to help you assess if your copy has a problem. You’ll need to learn how to find your own answers to improving your copy.

The heading

Does your heading grab the reader’s attention?

That’s all it has to do. It may do more, but if it arrests the reader and makes them pay some attention to the page, it’s job done.

A heading can take many approaches to achieving this, such as asking a question that will intrigue the reader or state something that makes the reader feel that the writer understands them.

The sub-heading

Does the sub-heading extend and clarify the information shared by the heading?

The heading needs to arrest the reader and the sub-heading should support and explain where necessary.

You may not be using a sub-heading if the heading does a good enough job on its own.

However, particularly if you’ve used a more cryptic type heading, your sub-heading may help to clarify the meaning make the reader see the page is relevant to them.

The images

Do the images show the product or illustrate the result or the benefits your product offers or are they just decoration?

Images can be a quick way to communicate a message, but don’t use them as decoration. Every part of the page should be a way point on the journey to the CTA and if an image isn’t working as part of that process, it shouldn’t be present.

For example, an image can quickly communicate who the typical user is. So if you’re a professional athlete with a fitness program helping middle-aged desk workers, a photo showing some typical customers would tell Uncle Chuckles that this is relevant to him. Whereas a photo of you, the athlete, pushing weights is likely to send Chuckles running, well perambulating slowly, to the hills.

The captions

Have you written captions that further tease the opportunity your product is presenting?

Captioning images seems to have fallen out of favor, but it’s another opportunity to prime the reader to need to read your page.

The reader’s eye will flit about taking in everything above the fold before settling into reading the copy or leaving the page. Captions present another chance for you to make a short and impactful statement about the product and why the reader needs to learn more.

The window display

Think of the four elements above as like the main window of a shop. All combined, do these elements do the best possible job of driving the reader to read the first sentence?

All the elements of the page mentioned above aren’t concerned with selling your product. Their sole purpose is to drive the reader to read the first sentence. If they don’t read the first sentence, it’s going to be miraculous if they buy your product.

The first sentence

Does the first sentence intrigue the reader enough to make them read the second sentence?

If you want to learn more about writing copy, Eugene Schwartz is someone worth studying.

He described the job of the heading as getting the reader to read the first sentence and the job of the first sentence as getting the reader to read the second sentence and the job of the second sentence as, well you can guess.

The first paragraphs

Leading on from the first sentence, do the first few paragraphs lead the reader on to reading each subsequent sentence?

So far, nothing has been about selling, the focus has been on getting the reader to read the copy. Obviously that can’t go on forever.

I’ve recently been reading some Joseph Sugarman books and he describes the technique of the first sentences drawing the reader onto a slippery slide so that they’re drawn into the copy and, so long as you don’t make any mistakes, they’ll keep reading to the end.

So once the first few paragraphs have got the reader onto that slippery slide, the copy can transition to the job of selling.

Speaking from a personal experience, I think of this as being like getting the reader into a flow state.

About 10 years ago I was looking at satellite internet services. Having researched various providers, I found myself on a site that didn’t offer the cheapest service, but having read several pages, I reached the cart and signed up for a 12 month contract that would cost about $2,000.

I’m quite a cynical prospect and usually overly cautious when making buying decisions. I’ll normally do a bit of research and look for reviews. However this site got me into what I look back on as a flow state in which any possible objections to buying were knocked down while convincing me that, even at a higher price, this was the right product for me.

Fortunately I have a very risk averse bank who stopped the initial charge. I say fortunately because as I searched for a phone number, I noticed a Trustpilot page for the company. Every single review on the first page was the minimum one star, with almost every complaint about a fair usage policy buried in the small print.

That experience was a real eye-opener to me about the power of great copy.

The copy

  • Does it clearly explain what your product is and what it does?
  • Does it clearly explain who it is for?
  • Does it explain why you are the person who can help them?
  • Does it explain why your product offers the solution they need right now?
  • Does it raise all the obvious objections you can anticipate readers having and successfully address them?
  • Is it plausible and persuasive?
  • When you read it aloud, does it flow naturally, without difficult words or awkward phrases?
  • Can you say the same thing with fewer or simpler words?

This is a selection of questions you can ask about your copy to help you assess if it’s actually selling your product or you’ve just written text that is filling space.

If you find copy that’s just filler, delete it or rewrite it so that it’s actively working as a way point on the reader’s journey to the CTA.

The Call to Action

Is there a single, clear and easy to understand Call to Action for the reader to follow?

When readers have completed their journey, be sure to have a clearly labelled action for them to take. A nice big and contrasting color button with an easy to understand label is going to be hard to beat.

Don’t underestimate the power of copy

No-one will buy from you because your page looks nice. In fact many a copywriter still claim that “ugly sells”, but don’t ever listen to a copywriter about design, they’re generally ill-informed.

However, when it comes to copy, they do know what they’re talking about.

If you’ve never read a book on copywriting, change that now. Otherwise you’re going off to war armed with a steam iron.

Sure, you can do a lot of damage with a steam iron, but you’ll likely find yourself a little hamstrung when going toe-to-toe with a third-generation main battle tank. Even with a decent extension lead.

Get on Amazon and find the books on the subject with good reviews or google or bing a phrase like “best books on copywriting”. Ebooks aren’t expensive and the value one good book could offer you can’t be overstated if you’ve got a good product that isn’t selling like you know it should.