What Misheard Lyrics Teach Us About Messaging

by Angus Lynch on September 5, 2014
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“And we’ll be bakin’ carrot biscuits, every day! Bakin’ carrot biscuits, every way..”

I’m prone to mishearing lyrics. As a kid, I never understood why that BTO song blared from countless souped up Firebirds. Why were dudes so amped about baked goods?

That song was just one of many I’d hear the wrong way, but soon I learned I wasn’t alone. There’s actually a term for this type of thing, a mondegreen—defined as the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase that gives it new meaning.

It’s a stupid sounding word, and a bit ironic that it’s hard to pronounce.

But the word also points to something larger.

All throughout our everyday lives, humans are prone to mishearing, misunderstanding and misinterpreting. How many times do arguments between lovers spiral out of control for no reason? How often do bosses and employees disagree, when really they’re saying the same thing?

Starship’s ’80s anthem sounded quite industrious to some…Image Source

It happens all the time—but why? In this post, I’ll break down why messages are misinterpreted, and tools you can use to make sure it doesn’t happen on the web.

Everyone hears and sees things differently

Misunderstandings occur when there’s static between the sender and receiver. And static can be caused by a whole bunch of factors:

  • Pre-conceived notions we all hold
  • Varying life experiences
  • Subconscious body language cues
  • Differing moral, political and social opinions
  • Different levels of intelligence and knowledge

The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” made some lofty promises…Image Source

Mondegreens may be funny in music, but in business they’re no joke. If your marketing message being misinterpreted, it comes at significant cost to your organization.

And unfortunately for marketers, we don’t have the benefit of a repetitive chorus to nail home the point, especially on the web. Unless you’re a big brand with unlimited marketing spend, you usually have only 6 seconds.

But they better get it soon. Recent findings state that millennials simply tune out marketing messages that don’t speak directly to them, in their language. With this demographic quickly becoming the prime target of marketers, many companies need to refine their messaging quickly.

And by “get it”, I mean use tools to find out how they’re being perceived, and using the insight to break the static between sender and receiver.

Companies that do their homework to find out how their message is being interpreted—then adjust their message accordingly—stand a much better chance at finding success in their marketing efforts.

And companies that don’t probably won’t be blasting “We Will Rock You” at the next Christmas party.

Freddy had a mean streak…Image Source

Moments of clarity

No matter how clear your message is, what you say will be misheard and misinterpreted countless times.

But let’s back up. Did your audience really misinterpret your message? Or is it that you’re not speaking their language? In most cases, it’s the latter.

In other words: it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.

In conversion optimization, one of the biggest factors affecting web page performance is the issue of clarity. As per our Crowdvert definition of clarity below, it’s a bit complicated:

Clarity = How well you convince the prospect why they should choose you

So to make it clear why they should choose you, you must speak their language, not your language. But what is their language? What do they value? To answer this question, you first must understand the value of your product to the customer.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this:

The right way: Using tools to glean customer insights, then infusing these insights into your messaging.

The wrong way: Deciding your messaging within your organization.

Tools—and only tools—will arm you with the information necessary to make sure you’re being heard loud and clear by the people you want hearing your message. Tools are built to glean insights, and insights lead to gains.

So let’s dig in to a 5-step process for making that happen.

Step #1: Use Google AdWords to find out what prospects are searching

To prove that business owners and customers often use completely different words to describe the same business, look no further than Google’s Keyword Planner.

Keyword Planner tells us the search volume behind keywords associated with different products and industries. It’s most commonly used for generating keyword ideas for pay-per-click or SEO strategies, but it’s also useful for getting quick customer insights.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Login with your Google credentials at google.com/adwords
  2. On the top menu, select Tools and then Keyword Planner.
  3. Select Search for new keyword and ad ideas.
  4. Enter phrases related to your product/service offering (1 per line).
  5. Hit Get Ideas.

Now here’s where the discrepancies begin. Let’s say you were a biotech firm marketing a product that helps men decide what to do after having prostate surgery. In step #4, you would likely enter terms like “post-prostatectomy treatment” and “after radical prostatectomy.”

Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” was confusing to some…Image Source

But when looking at your keyword results, you would find that the majority of your prospects would instead be searching terms such as “prostate cancer recovery”, “my prostate”, “prostate cancer treatment”, and “after prostate surgery.”

In this instance, we find that users and service providers are using different language to describe the same thing. This is the case with most businesses.

With AdWords’ insight however, you can achieve a certain measure of consistency in verbiage between you and the customer.

Step #2: Use Google Analytics to find out where users are abandoning

If you found some discrepancies between what you say and what they search, this step will help you identify if and where it’s causing a problem.

When webpages don’t get their message across effectively, one of the main symptoms is a high abandonment rate.

Luckily, Google Analytics makes it easy to find out which pages have exit rates that are higher than the norm. Here’s how:

  1. Login at google.com/analytics
  2. Select your domain
  3. Along the left sidebar, scroll down and select Behaviour.
  4. Select Site Content, and then All Pages.
  5. Look at the second column from the right, % Exit.


Look at your high-traffic pages. Do any have exit rates that are unusually high relative to your other pages? If you find some, these are pages that probably need some messaging work to make sure they’re clear, benefits-driven, and speak the customer’s language.

Which brings us to our next tool…

Step #3: Conducting online visitor surveys

Analytics will tell you what users are doing on your website, but visitor surveys will tell you why they do it.

If you had a brick-and-mortar store where the majority of people walked out before purchasing anything, would you ignore them?

Probably not. And you shouldn’t on the web, either. But luckily, site owners don’t need to accost their exiting customers to gain insights.

If you identified pages with high abandonment rates in tool #2, you’ve found excellent candidates for visitor surveys. And for this task, I would recommend Qualaroo.

With Qualaroo, the setup is quite easy—just 1 line of code. The bigger challenge is asking the right questions.

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I’ve found the best strategy for this is to ask direct questions about why the user didn’t take your desired action. So for example, if you’re promoting signups for a shipping company, your questions should be something to the effect of:

“Thanks for visiting. Was there anything holding you back from making a purchase today? Please be honest, we love feedback.”

When the results start coming in, they may look like a hot mess. Not to worry. The next step will clear it all up.

Step #4: Export and consolidate your feedback

First, export your data from Qualaroo to Excel.

After you’ve exported, open up the Excel file and give the responses a quick skim. This should give you a general feel for what typical responses are.

Then, create a new table in Excel that puts your common Qualaroo responses next to a ‘codified’ response. It should look something like this:


Both examples with orange arrows show instances where it’s likely your messaging was not clear, or was misunderstood at some point within the funnel. That’s actually good news, because you now have something to act on.

Now it’s time to run a pivot table over your codified data. Select the two columns, select pivot table, and copy your data into Pivot Table Builder, and create a pie chart.

Voila! This should give you a full readout of what your codified objections are. It should look something like this:


You now have a nice simple display of common user objections. Use this insight to inform your strategy in the next step.

Step #5: Adjusting your value proposition

The data and feedback you gathered in steps 1 through 4 should give you a better understanding of what your users value, what they object to, and the language they use to describe your products or services.

You’ve also learned where on your site users tend to abandon without taking your desired action. This should also tell whether there’s static in between the sender (you) and the receiver (the user) of your message.

Now it’s time to adjust your value proposition to account for the insight you’ve gained.

A value proposition is a simple cost vs. benefits equation. To motivate users, the perceived benefits must outweigh the perceived costs. Your value proposition must also:

  1. Convey benefits that are important to your users (Step #3).
  2. Be written in your customer’s language (Steps #1 and #3).
  3. Be implemented in high-value areas of your site (Step #2).

Here’s an article by Forbes that gives a good rundown on how to craft a compelling new value proposition. With the insight you gained in steps 1 through 4, you’re already off to a running start!

Great, I’ve used data and feedback to craft my new proposition. Now what?

There are two main strategies you can employ to implement your adjusted value proposition effectively:

1) Conduct conversion optimization tests to determine its effectiveness.

2) Employ user engagement tools to get your new value proposition in front of users.

Conversion optimization

With conversion optimization, there are two options: conduct your own tests, or employ a conversion optimization firm to implement and test your changes.

The avenue you choose depends on your skills as a marketer, and how deep your marketing budget goes.

Mastering conversion optimization requires a wide range of skill sets including analytics, marketing, user understanding, user experience, design, copywriting, development, and project management. The road can be difficult—downright maddening at times—but the efforts are usually well worth it.

If you’re considering this option, we recommend this excellent beginner’s guide by Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam.

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The second option is hiring a firm. This will save you a huge amount of time, and it will ensure your tests are conducted properly. But it also represents a significant cost to your organization, and whether it’s worth it depends on your situation.

If you’re searching for a conversion optimization firm, Crowdvert is the founding company behind Rooster.

Trumpeting your message with exit overlays

Using exit overlays is a faster, harder-hitting method of getting your newly crafted value proposition in front of users. And since these tools are mostly automated, they can also save you a boatload of time.

An exit overlay is a form of lightbox display advertising that uses tracking algorithms to monitor user behaviour on your site. When the algorithm detects a user is about to abandon, your display message is activated.

Exit overlays recover value from abandoning users by capturing email addresses, social followers, sales leads—and eventually—paying customers.

A Rooster Exit Overlay used to recover abandoning visitors from Xeroshoes.com

Where should exit-overlays be used? In step #2, we discussed how to identify pages on your site with high abandonment rates. These pages are excellent candidates for an exit overlay. And if they happened to be landing pages, even better.

Since many users aren’t willing to commit on their first visit, exit-intent is a great strategy to gain contact information from abandoning users, especially if your ‘ask’ is an opt-in for a newsletter or email subscription.

Rooster can segment abandoning users into different groups—first-time visitors, returning visitors who haven’t purchased, users who are about to abandon a shopping cart—and tailor your overlay’s message accordingly.

Using a combination of a Rooster Exit Overlay and the strategy we’ve laid out in this post, we recently had a client quadruple his sales leads and drive a 9.81% increase in order volume.


It’s easy to be misunderstood or misinterpreted on the web.

Yet by using the combination of data insights and user engagement tools (like an exit overlay) to bring a clear, relevant message to your prospect’s attention, you can ensure your message is being heard as you intended.

So if you’re not testing how your marketing message is being interpreted, I’ll leave you with this final piece of advice:

Don’t go ‘round tonight, well it’s bound to take your life, and…

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How many abandoning visitors can you convert to leads, sales & signups? Rooster is available on a free 30-day trial.



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