How to Use Bullet Lists to Get Attention and Win More Customers

How to Use Bullet Lists to Get Attention and Win More Customers

Who couldn’t use a more efficient, profitable website?

In the never-ending quest for more conversions, you have countless possibilities to explore and options to test.

But there’s one thing many businesses overlook. Pushing it to the top of your priority list can help you land more leads, customers, and sales.

Ready to see how?

Let’s talk bullet lists. They’re unassuming and often overlooked. But they’re also powerful conversion-boosting tools… if you know how to use them!

Are Bullet Lists Really a Big Deal?

A lot of businesses throw bullet lists together on their sales and landing pages. They notice everyone else using them, and they follow along without giving the process much thought.

Bullet lists don’t seem like a big deal. There are tons of other obvious things to worry about – things like headlines, calls to action, and what the big retailers are doing.

Everyone and their mother use bullet lists. Practically all of those people could get more mileage out of that copy. Instead, their bullets go right over their visitors’ heads.

Joanna Wiebe from Copy Hackers sums up the problem perfectly:

But did you know that we call them “bullet” lists because they’re supposed to look like bullets… and, in turn, act like them? The thing about a bullet is that, if it’s going to do its job, it usually has to lodge in the thing it’s trying to affect.

Why Bullet Lists Are More Important Than You Think

Your little bullet list can have a larger impact on your conversions than you might’ve imagined.

A lot of this has to do with the way people read online. The reality is that most users aren’t doing much reading at all. They’re scanning, skimming, and poking around for crucial information instead of moving their eyes across your words linearly.

There’s a reason why UX Myths chose “People read on the web” as their #1 UX myth. Jakob Nielsen’s data supports their assertion; an eye-tracking study found that users read less then 20% of the text content on an average web page.

Bullets get users to stop and slow down. The white space they create provides a break between long, visually intimidating paragraphs. They give users’ eyes a chance to rest and process critical information.

If you have any doubt about the power of effective bullet lists, check out what happened to Michael Aagaard when he tested variations of a single bullet point:

aagaard bullet test

Just by changing the copy of one bullet point, Aagaard increased the number of visitors who downloaded his e-book by 18.59%. Imagine what that kind of increase could mean for your business!

How the Experts Use Bullet Lists

Creating irresistible bullet points takes work and plenty of testing, but it doesn’t need to be intimidating.

Fortunately, a lot of copywriting and conversion experts have chimed in on what it takes to make bullets great. We can turn their insights – developed over years and countless tests – into actionable “bullet list best practices” you can apply in your own business.

Of course, what will work best depends on your audience and what you’re selling. But you can use these best practices as a great starting point. Then you can begin testing and optimizing until you find the perfect formula for your business.

4 Bullet Lists Best Practices

Here are 4 best practices to create compelling bullet lists and increase your conversions:

1. Turn Bullet Points into “Mini Headlines”

What makes some bullets irresistible and others mind-numbingly dull?

It comes down to how they affect your users’ psychology. The same principles that make headlines effective can make your bullets engaging as well. Treating each of your bullet points like a “mini headline” is the perfect philosophy to boost your conversions.

bullet-list-mini-headline

According to Robert Bruce, a regular writer at Copyblogger, great bullet points have two elements:

  1. Brevity
  2. Promise

Brevity: Long, detailed bullet points can work in certain situations. But most of the time they defeat the purpose of using bullets in the first place – keeping readers moving through your copy. Bullets should give users a break, not bog them down. Keeping yours short is the safe bet.

Promise: Great bullets intrigue users with the promise of something more. A common mistake is, in the words of Demian Farnworth, to “give away the farm.” I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate movie trailers that give away the entire plot or all the best jokes. Your bullets can tease, but they should also hold something back.

What makes for a good “promise?” We can turn John Caples, one of the most successful copywriters of all time, for guidance. His book, Tested Advertising Methods, discusses what makes for a good headline. But the advice also applies to bullet points. Here are Caples’ three elements that make a good headline:

  1. Appeals to the reader’s self-interest
  2. Arouses curiosity
  3. Shares something new and noteworthy

You can use one (or more) of these elements in your bullet points to make them more compelling. If the idea of treating bullet points like headlines is intimidating, I highly recommend downloading Jon Morrow’s free “Headline Hacks” report. You’ll learn how to write better headlines, and you can apply that knowledge to your bullet points too!

2. Keep Bullets Short and Don’t Use Too Many of Them

Once you understand how powerful bullet points can be, it’s easy to go overboard with your lists. Presenting users with a 20-item list overwhelms them and actually weakens your copy.

You can apply Sean D’Souza’s strategy and brainstorm a list of potential bullet points. Then you can go through that list, cross out any obvious losers, and only use bullets that you think are the best in terms of persuasive power.

Lance Jones, Joanna’s business partner at Copy Hackers, published an article a few months back challenging the assumption that all bullet lists are created equal. His article shared a case study of how they optimized Precision Nutrition’s conversions on a page giving fitness pros the chance to receive early notification when a certification program opened for registration.

Copy Hackers did this largely by tweaking how many bullets appeared on the page, their contents, and how they were formatted. Here were the results (the three test variations that tweaked the bullets are highlighted in the green box):

copy hackers bullet test results

 

And here are Lance’s key takeaways from the Precision Nutrition case study:

copy hackers bullets takeaways

 

Being selective about which bullets to display and how you display them can have a tremendous impact on your conversion rate. Erring on the side of over-selectivity is better than including too many bullets, which can overwhelm users and make them lose interest.

3. Translate Features into Valuable Customer Benefits

Customers aren’t interested in buying your product or services. They’re only interested in the solutions you can provide to eliminate their problems and frustrations.

Trying to sell users on your product or service’s features alone – the facts about what you’re selling – is a recipe for disaster. Persuasive copy “connects the dots” for users by pointing out how each feature helps the user. They translate features into benefits.

Bullet points are the perfect opportunity to ensure users don’t get lost in translation. Henneke Duistermaat, from Enchanting Marketing, recommends asking a simple question in response to your features:

enchanting marketing features benefits

Asking “so what?” and answering the question in your bullet points conveys valuable benefits and can increase your conversions. It gives you a mixture of tools – features and benefits – to pump up your appeal and make your bullets more persuasive.

But writing your bullets and choosing which ones to use is just the first step. How do you display them in a way that gets noticed?

4. Format Your Bullet Points for Maximum Appeal

You can have the wittiest, most compelling bullet points in the world, but if they’re jumbled together on your web page, no one will read them.

Avoid clutter. Stick to a simple layout for your bullet list; you’ll give users the visual break they crave without overwhelming them with hierarchies and cascading lists. The last thing you want to do is make your bullet list look like an outline for a college essay.

Make your bullets symmetrical. The more similar your bullets look, the higher the chance of them getting read. If all of your bullets except one are two-lines long, it’ll get users’ attention in a negative way. The slightest hesitation can stop people from reading and make your bullets ineffective.

Use the same typefaces, verb tenses, and content formats. Don’t throw links, numerical bullets, and text-based bullets together haphazardly. Stick to the same verb tense to help your bullets flow. It’s okay to use sentence fragments; if you can’t condense your bullet points into fragments, they might be better off as paragraphs or numbered lists.

Put your most important bullets first and last. Users are more likely to read and remember that content. To really optimize your bullet list, put the most important words of each bullet point first to increase the chances they are read.

Your Turn

Tweaking and testing your bullet points isn’t as exciting as testing headlines or calls to action, but it can have just as much of an effect on your conversions.

If you’re struggling to get the conversions you want – or if you’re converting well but want to do better – give these bullet list best practices a try. They’ll help you catch people’s attention, draw them in, and get them open to diving into the rest of your copy.

And the more they read, the more likely they are to buy!

Have you ever tested your bullet lists? What was the impact on your conversions? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

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