Are you losing conversions because of a high WF/SPP ratio?


“What,” I hear you ask, “is a WF/SPP ratio?” Why, gentle reader, let me tell you. It’s a Weighted First/Second Person Pronoun Ratio! Isn’t that so much clearer now?

All right, I’ll explain. Your content will only work effectively and sell your products if it relates well to your prospective customer. One good way of telling if it does this is by comparing the number of ‘I-words’ in it to the number of ‘U-words’. Ace copywriter Dean Rieck suggests scouring through it and highlighting every I-word in red, and every U-word in green. If you end up with more red than green, your copy is…well, it’s crap. Start again. It ain’t gonna sell, because no one cares about you. Your copy should be about the people you’re selling to. They’re the ones they care about.

This is a capital plan, and works great for print writing—but I want to adapt it to the web. At the same time, I’m going penalize I-words more if they appear further up the copy, where they’re less likely to be relevant or wise; and if they aren’t in close proximity to U-words, since this suggests you’re just talking about yourself instead of about your relationship to your prospect. So this is a little more refined than the simple highlighter method.

It isn’t, of course, a silver bullet. If you aren’t putting other copywriting principles into practice—if you aren’t writing to an objective or taking time to polish your writing with a strong voice and knock-out headlines and a compelling idea presented alongside clear benefits with a strong call to action and all that other good stuff—this isn’t really going to help you. But if you are doing all that, and you want to check that your copy is directed toward the right person, here’s a simple test:

Determine your WF/SPP score

The score of your copy is essentially calculated by counting the number of First Person Pronouns and Second Person ones, and then figuring the difference. The cunning part is where each instance of a pronoun is weighted according to where it occurs. Here’s how you work it out:–

  1. Open up Google. Yes, this is advanced stuff.
  2. Look at your headline. (I take the “headline” to be the visually dominant text which isn’t your logotype or tagline. For example, on this site the text underneath the logo isn’t a headline; it’s just a tagline.) Okay, found your headline? Good. Count the number of words that refer to you or your company (I-words). For each one, type -20+ into Google’s search bar. Now count the number of words that refer to your prospect (U-words). For each one, type 10+ into the search bar. That’s right: I-words are big negatives; U-words are half as big positives.
  3. Now look at your lede. That’s the first sentence after your headline. For each I-word, type -10+ into the search bar. For each U-word, type 5+.
  4. Now go through the rest of your text. For each I-word which doesn’t have a corresponding U-word in the same sentence, enter -10+ into Google. Conversely, for each U-word that doesn’t have a corresponding I-word in the same sentence, type 5+. Simple? Yeah.

Once you’ve gotten to the end of your copy, you should have a search bar full of numbers separated by plus signs. Now all you do is add a zero to the end so Google understands what you want, and hit Enter to see your result.

But what does it mean?!

Well, it’s very simple really. If your number is negative, you need to rework your copy pretty badly. It’s not written for your customer; it’s written for you. The more negative it is, the worse off you are. If your number is positive, you’re doing pretty well—and the more positive it is, the better you’re doing.

Don’t get complacent though; there’re still lots of other things you can do to make your copy better. I’ll be going into some of them here in future, so be sure to subscribe below, or check back often.

D Bnonn Tennant
‘The Information Highwayman’

D Bnonn Tennant, ‘The Information Highwayman’, signs his name to this

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