In a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

by | May 14, 2021 | Public Relations

There wasn’t a lot of good news going around in 2020, but while negativity drove an unprecedented amount of clicks and content consumption in the media last year, it had the opposite effect on marketing campaigns. New research from conversion intelligence software Unbounce reveals an increased use of negative emotional language coincided with lower conversions across multiple industries including ecommerce, fitness and nutrition, and home improvement.

The firm’s newly released 2021 Conversion Benchmark Report analyzes the outcomes from almost 264 million visits to over 44,000 landing pages, which led to 33 million conversions. A mountain of data was refined and rich, validated insights drawn on what worked and what didn’t as marketers from across industries sought to engage with a flood of online visitors in a year unlike any other.

in a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

The report breaks down insights into 16 industry sectors including, ecommerce, education, SaaS, business services, legal, home improvement, travel, real estate and fitness and nutrition. It looked at how factors such as emotion, sentiment and complexity of language influenced a business’ potential to convert web traffic into potential customers.
Key findings include:

In a year of negativity, negative language did not convert

In ecommerce, online sellers significantly increased their use of all types of emotional language, but especially language considered negative—anger (+8.9 percent), fear (+6.0 percent) and sadness (+8.1 percent). The increase in negative language (words such as ‘angry’, ‘ruthless’ and ‘depressing’) was seen in several industry sectors and frequently correlated with a decrease in conversions.

in a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

Positive language in education scores an F

Analysis of which emotional sentiments drove higher conversion rates on education landing pages showed that words relating to joy and anticipation (words such as ‘aspiration’, ‘proud’, and ‘succeed’) often correlated with lower page performance.

in a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

The winners won out as traffic spiked across the board

In ecommerce, while traffic surged, the lower performing 25 percent of pages saw little difference year over year in conversion rates. However, the top performing 25 percent of pages saw conversions increase from 12.2 percent to 15.3 percent for desktop and 14.5 percent to a staggering 18.3 percent for mobile.

in a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

When it came to fitness, tough love led to poor results

Compared to other segments, fitness and nutrition pages saw significantly higher levels of negative sentiment. The industry has the highest levels of language associated with both anger and disgust (117.8 percent and 448.3 percent over the baseline). The data suggested though that people weren’t looking for drill instructor-style motivational, in fact words of joy drove higher conversion in both fitness and nutrition.

in a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

“The past 12 months has been a fascinating and emotion-filled year where business was not as usual and consumers across the globe shifted perspectives and behaviors like never before,” said Megan Sakakibara, VP of marketing at Unbounce, in a news release. “People seemed to devour content and conversations seeded in negativity in 2020, but interestingly this negative sentiment had the opposite effect when it came to marketing campaigns.”

in a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

“The data from our study uncovers the enormous challenge marketers faced trying to land the right tone in one of the most heady social and political times most have ever seen,” Sakakibara added. “The findings in this report provide real value for marketers and ultimately will enable them to learn from the lessons of 2020 in order to build high converting campaigns in 2021.”

in a year of negative news, increasing negative language killed conversions for marketers

Download the full report here.

The Unbounce data science team, made up of a group of data scientists, data analysts and data engineers, analyzed the behavior of 264 million visits  to 44,000 landing pages, culminating in 33 million conversions. Unbounce used its machine learning model to sort the pages available into topics (like industrial tools or medical law), based on the content of these pages. 

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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