Create Killer Content: Copy These Powerful Formulas

sales writingDo a search on “sales writing” or “copywriting” and you’ll see that the body of content around it is ginormous. And that’s no surprise. After all, copywriting is the substance of all the print and digital marketing materials out there, from headlines to calls to action (and all that stuff in between).

The art and science of writing persuasive copy as we know it has been around for some time, and the principles and best practices of David Ogilvy’s day still apply today. In part 1 in our 4-part series on conversions writing, we review some evergreen resources that feature time-saving copywriting formulas, as well as helpful how-tos on creating compelling headlines and email subject lines.

Copywriting Formulas: Acronym Soup 

Creating solid sales copy takes precious time and energy. To help you use both most efficiently, here are several resources for your virtual library.

The Ultimate Guide to No-Pain Copywriting (or, Every Copywriting Formula Ever)

By Joanna Wiebe via Copy Hackers

“Because only rookies write from scratch…” So begins Joanna Wiebe’s introduction to Copy Hackers’ ambitious taxonomy of copywriting formulas (as well as several templates, methods and checklists).

Beginning with the widely known AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) model and its myriad variations to more obscure ones such as HELLYEAH (Holler-Empathize-Lambast-Legwork-Yes-Educate-Action-Handle) for long form sales letters, this guide is rich with links and examples. Definitely a keeper!

The Ultimate Guide to Copywriting

By Hassan Ud-deen via Kissmetrics

In this “ultimate guide,” author Hassan Ud-deen discusses the multiple elements that make for superlative copy. He offers a detailed description of how to apply the AIDA formula (including a great YouTube clip of Alec Baldwin’s tutorial from Glengarry Glen Ross), and delves into the psychology behind intriguing headlines, compelling openings and persuasive sales copy. Ud-deen even touches on the use of closed vs. open bullet points. A handy resource you’ll consult for most any copywriting project.

Why Most Copywriting Formulas Stink (and How to Really Write for the Web)

By Henneke Duistermaat via Enchanting Marketing

Authored by the self-described “irreverent copywriter and marketer” Henneke Duistermaat, this post takes aim at the AIDA copywriting formula. Her main objection to AIDA is the redundancy (and potential overkill) of the “attention” part. Unlike the days of print advertising when AIDA was conceived (circa 1900), you’ve already got the attention of readers — they’ve clicked on your site (several others echo this observation, including Wiebe).

Duistermaat favors the FAB (Features-Advantages-Benefits) formula (listed in Copy Hackers’ guide as “A single, solitary formula for body copy”), with the emphasis being on the benefits your product or service offers your prospect (which propels the desire called for by the AIDA model).

She also addresses the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solution, or -Solve) formula premised on the avoidance of pain, whereby you describe a problem, stir up the emotions associated with it, then offer your solution. Regarding PAS, she quotes copywriting legend Dan Kennedy:

“When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how powerful this first formula is. (…) It may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.”

Master This Copywriting Formula to Dominate Any Social Media Platform

By Demian Farnworth via Copyblogger

The applications for the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solve) copywriting formula (above) are “endless”, writes Demian Farnworth, citing and linking out to examples of its use in product descriptions, landing pages and sales letters.

Farnworth then delves into how to apply the PAS formula to any text-based social media platform (rather humorously), including Twitter. He further notes that “PAS gives your writing consistency, precision, and persuasion” and is a tool you can keep handy to be an efficient writer because you “don’t have to recreate the wheel every time.”

Compelling Headlines: Key to Conversions

You’re most likely familiar with David Ogilvy’s famous quote about headlines: “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Here are some resources to help you spend that 80 cents wisely.

A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Blog Titles

By Corey Eridon via HubSpot

Corey Eridon succinctly underscores the importance of creating truly compelling titles in prefacing his post: “Titles are what sell the content.” He continues, “They represent it in search engines, in email, and on social media.”

Guided by best practices, notably keeping the reader experience paramount by delivering on the promise of the title, Eridon’s headline-writing formula starts with the key step of distinguishing an overarching topic from a specific, working title that “guides the creation of a blog post.”

Other requisites of a stellar title include making it sexy while keeping it accurate, as deceptive clickbait titles are liable to backfire by alienating readers (they may well lose trust in you or the brand you’re representing). Additional steps entail optimizing the title for search while keeping it short, and then brainstorming with someone else to hone it to perfection. A smart, from-the-trenches formula!

#Copywriting ALERT! 902 Headline Banging Words, SRSLY

By Marty Weintraub via aimClear

aimClear CEO Marty Weintraub and his team share a list of 902 words to use when creating blog, article and ad headlines. According to Weintraub, these words are “likely to distinguish professional from amateur copy when well used.”

The list is divided into “an array of permutations” that include emotions, expletive punch words and a set of synonyms that serve as a kind of “headline-stemming lateral thesaurus.” Then to assist with ad headline and SEO title brevity, the list is color-coded according to the word’s character count. This resource is something best understood firsthand, so definitely check it out!

How To Create Headlines That Grab Attention And Convert

By Michael Brenner via Marketing Insider Group

A study conducted by HubSpot and Outbrain of more than 3.3 million blog headlines looked into those attributes that increased or inhibited content reach as measured by click-through rates (CTRs), engagement and conversions. In a nutshell, their analysis reveals that readers have become wary of clickbait, demonstrating a strong preference for transparent titles.

Michael Brenner summarizes the study’s findings, writing that headlines with the words “who” and “photo(s),” as well as those with clarifications in brackets (such as [Webinar]), generated higher CTRs, while the latter two also drove higher engagement. Bracketed descriptions were further found to generate more conversions.

The analysis found that overused sexy words such as “secret” and “magic”, those that directly address the reader (“you”) and those that convey urgency (such as “now”) all hurt CTRs by as much as 59 percent. You can download the full study (“Data Driven Strategies for Writing Effective Titles & Headlines”) at HubSpot.

Hate this Headline? You’ll Probably Share the Story.

By Barry Feldman via Kissmetrics

While an 8-word headline of a 1300-word post represents less than 1% of the content, I’m 99% sure it will be the line that dictates the destiny of your post,” writes Barry Feldman in his own post about how to get your content shared on social media…so much so that it delivers a “sudden and pronounced spike in traffic”. The key: giving your post an emotional headline to invoke reader response by using words that pack a powerful punch.

Such “power words” can be positive (connoting pleasurable feelings), or negative (i.e., painful feelings) and there are scads of them. Feldman shares links to CoSchedule’s “cheat sheet” of over 180 power words, and to PsychPage’s equally impressively list of feeling words, both pleasant and unpleasant. He also shares a tool that scores the emotional mojo of your headlines, so you can test alternative variations. Go forth and make that headline emote!

Email Subject Lines: Stand Out in the Inbox Crowd

Email marketing is one of the most effective content marketing strategies available. You can think of email subject lines as headlines for your reader’s inbox, with their open rates the equivalent of headline click-through rates. Here are resources to assist you in persuading your readers to open your email.

The 9 Best Email Subject Line Styles to Increase Your Open Rates

By Megan Marrs via WordStream

You needn’t look farther than your own inbox to know that subscribers are inundated with emails vying for their attention. Here Megan Marrs discusses nine types of email subject lines to boost open rates: simple and no-nonsense; funny; controversial/shocking; single-word; numbers and lists; personalized; questions and other punctuation; “missing out” and other scarcity tactics; and finally, mysterious.

She then lists several general best practices for writing email subject lines, including writing ten different lines for every email and then choosing the best, keeping the character count to under 50, playing with alliteration and using CAPITALS sparingly.

Your Turn

Have you come across any evergreen sales writing resources you’d like to share? Please include them in the comments below!

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Create a Killer Home Page

Greetings! Glad you’re here, because today’s SEO copywriting how-to video is about creating a killer home page.  However powerful your copywriting and skilled your SEO, if you’re making these all-too-common, conversions-killing mistakes with your home page copy, your business will suffer.  The good news is, bad as it may seem now, it is easily corrected!

If you’ve been following Heather’s weekly how-to video posts, you’ll notice the progression from the inaugural 3 skills every SEO copywriter must have to this step-by-step series, aimed at providing you with explicit guidance to creating a fantastic website.

Beginning at the beginning, Heather first addresses the home page: what you should include on your home page to serve both the search engines and your target audience, as well as what tactics to avoid.

So let’s review:

Why Focus on the Home Page?

Because the home page is the most important page on your site!  It is your second conversions opportunity following the search engine results page.

The Home Page:

  • Is the page most indexed by the search engines
  • Sets the “tone” for the entire site
  • Orients people: they know they’re at the right “place” and that you offer what they want/need

Your Home Page is Like a Funnel:

From a sales perspective, you should assume that your prospects are coming to your site directly from search engine results, a link, or an offline source.  Your objective is to first, immediately let these folks know that they’re at the right place and then second, direct them to exactly where they need to go next.

Your home page serves to segment your audience and then prompt them to move around your site. Your home page is a great “preview” of all that you offer, not an index of every single benefit you offer.

Tried and true strategies for writing a killer home page, whether B2B or B2C, are:

  • Use overarching benefit statements & general, overarching keywords/keyphrases

A well-written home page should serve as a “teaser,” offering a preview of the great benefits your company has to offer.  It isn’t the place to discuss each and every benefit you offer, or list each and every keyword or keyphrase in your arsenal.  It is the place to offer your readers a taste, then clearly direct them to exactly where they need to go for the full entrée.

Trying to say too much too soon overwhelms the reader, dilutes your message, and detracts from those keywords and phrases that actually apply to the home page.  The same goes for your home page footer:  jamming keywords and phrases into your footer doesn’t do anybody any good, period.  Don’t do it.

It is better to sprinkle your benefit statements and related keyword/keyphrases throughout your site.  You’ve product/service pages to address specific product/service benefits, about pages to discuss your company and mission statement, etc., and to include the corresponding, relevant keywords and phrases for those pages.

  • Link intelligently from your home page to your product/services page

Again, your home page should serve as a funnel, directing your readers deeper into your site.  As with benefit statements and keywords/phrases, you want to avoid linking out to each and every product or service you offer.  It serves all concerned far better to link to main sections/categories of your site.

Far too often, otherwise well-written home pages go wrong with this “link-o-rama” (mal)practice, whereby your prospect is confronted with one big hyperlink.  It only sabotages your home page content to jam it up with numerous internal links.  For the reader, it is both visually overwhelming and psychologically overwhelming.  Easy does it!

  • Write copy that is focused around your customer persona

Write as if you were addressing an audience of one:  your ideal customer.  You want to reach and resonate with that one person.  Writing general, untargeted copy will get you general, untargeted results.

This is a great opportunity to change up your copy to increase conversions by honing your message specifically for your customer persona.  Even if you have multiple customer personas, you can readily structure your home page copy to address each persona and then direct the prospect to vertical-specific, niche landing pages within your website.

  • Create a fantastic, benefit-oriented home page title

We’ve already discussed the importance of creating compelling, “clickable” page Titles.  Far, far better to compose a powerful home page Title that couples one or two of the main keywords/phrases specific to the home page with a strong benefit statement, than to write a so-so title that is stuffed with keywords.  You want to match your targeted home page copy with an equally targeted, clickable page Title.

  • Get to the point

Stay on track and relay your message to your customer persona as succinctly as possible.  Ruthlessly edit your copy and strive for an economy of words:  if you can say something in five words as opposed to 25, do it.  Your home page isn’t the place for waxing poetic!

So, what information should you have on your products or services pages? Stay tuned, as next week Heather will discuss how to craft conversions-driving copy for your company’s products/services!

Thanks for checking in!  As always, your questions and comments are most welcome.


Want Better Conversions? Get Specific with Your Benefit Statements

Want to sell more?

Make your benefit statements specific. Very specific.

Heather developed this piece in response to a reader question about how to increase the effectiveness of their web copy. In looking through the reader’s web content, Heather realized that one of the opportunities the copywriter could leverage was to make their marketing copy more specific.

While the general reader benefit statements were powerful, honing them to highly tangible and specific “what’s-in-it-for-me” language is what this copywriter needed to do to improve their conversions. So for those of you who have been struggling with writing better sales copy and are looking for any advantage you can find, you should find this most helpful:

1. So these are so-so benefit statements. (Let’s make them better…)

  • Boost your revenue!
  • Let us help you save time!
  • Save money!

The challenge? People have different ideas about what “boosting revenue,” “saving time” and “saving money” mean. The web copy doesn’t paint a picture. This is where the specifics come in…

2. Specifics take a good marketing statement and make it sexy

  • Boost your revenue by 30%!
  • What would you do with an extra hour every day?
  • Slice your expenses by $2,000 a month!

So you can see how these highly specific benefits, expressed in such personalized, concrete and precise terms, can be something simple to leverage…

3. So what does this mean to your online writing?

  • Track how you’ve helped your customers – what specifics can you uncover?
  • Try to back up any “general” benefit statement with an exact number or percentage.
  • Don’t feel compelled to “round up.” If you’ve boosted profits by 27.6%, it’s OK to use that stat.

If you haven’t yet asked your customers for testimonials, now would be a great time to start. Ask them if they can provide you with any precise specifications in terms of numbers and percentages. Studies have shown that accurate, factual spec’s (e.g., 27.6% as opposed to 25- or 30%) are found to be more credible by prospects. And besides, it’s the truth of the matter!

Try these suggestions and watch your conversions improve!

What Does an SEO Copywriter Do, Anyway?

Welcome back!  In today’s video post, Heather answers a question from the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group:  What does an SEO copywriter do, anyway? It is an excellent question, as many folks are somewhat mystified by the words “SEO copywriting.”  Whether you’re in the online writing profession, or are considering hiring a SEO copywriter, you will learn a lot in just a few minutes,  as Heather tackles this question in her second Q & A video post.

What Do They Write?

  • An SEO copywriter may create content for blogs, Facebook posts and tweets (often know as a social media writer), or…
  • She may create sales and informational copy for Websites, writing content that helps people take action and buy the product or service offered.

The common denominator is that in SEO copywriting, all writing is “wrapped around” keyphrases.  The SEO copywriter knows how to research those keyphrases, or knows what the keyphrase research means, and she also knows how to skillfully incorporate those keyphrases within the page copy in a way that they fit and flow smoothly.

SEO Copywriters Are a Crucial Part of the Equation in a SEO Campaign

The image of the well-known marketing expert, Seth Godin, is shown because he is quoted as saying that “the best SEO is great content.”

How he meant that is, when you have a really well-written page, people will want link to it, because they want to link out to good quality content.  Well-composed, high-quality pages tend to attract more readers, and keep them on the site longer.

This is important to consider when hiring or working with a SEO copywriter, because you need to have solid, quality content on your site.  The writing needs to be good, and read smoothly.  You want to steer clear of clunky, keyphrase-riddled copy.

The Words SEO Copywriters Use Help Drive Traffic and Make Money

SEO copywriters are also crucial to the equation from a sales and conversions perspective, because their incorporation of keyphrases within the copy helps to drive traffic and income.  Their skilled writing will help visitors take that next conversions step, whether it’s going to another page in the site, or buying a product, or requesting more information.

SEO Copywriters Work in Conjunction with a Great SEO/Social Team

The chart by Matt McGee aptly demonstrates the many components that make up a successful SEO campaign.  The SEO copywriter plays an essential role in the overarching campaign, as noted, and may work with a number of team members such as programmers, web designers, social media and content strategists.  Ultimately, it is the SEO copywriter that creates the content that attracts traffic, engages the audience, and encourages site conversions.


Your SEO Is Not the Problem

Who do you blame when your sales are slow?

We’re not getting business because the graphic designer designed our logo wrong.

We’re not getting business because our competitors have way more money.

We’re not getting business because the SEO company we hired didn’t do it right. 

We’re not getting business because we’re a small business, and Google only likes large companies.

We’re not driving more traffic to the website because, because, because…

Bring up the fact that the site content sucks, and the blame cycle starts again. “Yeah, we haven’t spent a lot of time on the content. But why bother when the logo is wrong, Google doesn’t like our site and the SEO screwed up anyway?”

Guess what? I doubt the reason that you aren’t landing leads is because Google, your competitors, your SEO and your link builder conspired against your success.

It’s your content.

Bad content will not drive leads. Or sales. Or shares.  You can market the hell out of your site, but it won’t help (much.)

Bad content is just bad – and it has issues, too.

For instance…

Bad content issue #1: Your site is so focused on SEO that you ignore the customer experience. Have you spent thousands on link building, social media management and technical SEO – but you made your admin assistant write the copy and told her to stuff it with keyphrases? If so, what are you thinking? As my father used to say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Your link builder and SEO may be able to drive more traffic to your site, but know that “driving traffic” doesn’t mean “you’ll make sales.” If your content sucks, there’s no reason to promote it. Fix it instead.

Bad content issue  #2: Your site is so filled with marketing-speak that it turns off your readers. Have you ever chatted with someone who liked to flaunt their “intellectual superiority?” Boring aren’t they? Yeah – well, your dirt-dull SEO content has the same effect on folks. If you’re pushing your “consultative” angle, speaking over the heads of most readers will do nothing but turn them off and cause them to feel like they can’t “connect” with you. When you write approachable copy, people will approach you. It’s that simple. (And yes, I’m talking to you, B2B companies.)

Bad content issue #3: Your site is all about you – and not about your reader. Here’s a newsflash – your prospects really don’t care about your mission statement. Or your warehouse. Or your process – unless you can show how that process helps your customers. Think about it: do you recite your mission statement every time you chat with a new prospect? Of course not. Why would you write content that does exactly that?

Bad content issue #4: You don’t have much site copy because you want people to call you instead. Yes, it’s important to chat with prospects. At the same time, people won’t call you unless you give them a reason – and that reason means smart, customer-driven content. You don’t need to give away the secret sauce of what you do. But, don’t you want enough copy to explain what you do and why people should give you a call?

So, if you find yourself playing the blame game – and you know that your site content isn’t that great – isn’t it time to tackle the real issue?

I think that you’ll be amazed at the results.

How to Use the Rule of 3 to Supercharge Your Writing

Greetings! You’re in for a fun treat: learning all about the secret awesome sauce of powerful copywriting, held dear and effectively applied by marketers, advertisers and speech writers alike…the rule of three.

Described in detail by Heather in this week’s SEO Copywriting how-to video, once you learn about this tip, you’ll think “Oh my goodness – this is EVERYWHERE!” And it is, because it is a tried-and-true strategy that has stood the test of copywriting time.

Tune in as Heather explains what the rule of three is, and shows you how to employ the rule of three in your Web writing, from creating killer benefit statements to engaging taglines to fantastic web copy…

What’s the “rule of three”?

What we know collectively as copywriters is that grouping things in threes tends to provide a greater impact, and when speaking it tends to roll off the tongue easily. This is something that speechwriters and marketers have been using since the beginning of copywriting time.

  • Grouping things in threes provides a greater impact – and makes the list easier to remember.
  • Old school marketers have been using this technique since the beginning of copywriting time (and speech writers, too!)

So if you think about the advertising messages or slogans out there, you see this rule of 3 happens everywhere:

  •  “Just do it” – Nike
  • “Tune in, turn on, drop out” – Timothy Leary
  • “Blood, sweat and tears” – The band, and the saying
  • “Words and phrases and clauses” – Conjunction Junction

Heather had to use the little screenshot from “Conjunction junction,” because if you grew up in that generation then you know the lyrics, “Words and phrases and clauses.” Again, the rule of three is used to make something stick in the readers’ or listeners’ minds.

So here are some ways that you can edge this rule of three into your copy….

Use three benefit statements

One of the first ways you can incorporate the rule of three in your copy is to use three main benefit statements. While this is especially applicable to your home page, it is actually something that you can do on your other web pages as well.

  • Rather than listing a bunch of benefits, limit yourself to your top three heavy-hitters.

The screenshot example shown here is from You Need A Budget (YNAB). As you can see, on their home page they have three main benefits bullets:

  • A Proven Method
  • Amazing Software
  • Free, Live Classes

So all of the benefits pop! They stand out, and as readers it’s really easy for us to quick-scan the page and see exactly what’s in it for us.

Create a “rule of three” tagline

  • Can you distill your company’s essence down to three main statements? Sure you can!

So here we have an example from GAIAM, with their tagline:  “live | learn | grow.” And Mind Body’s tagline:  “Love your business.”  See how well that those three-word groupings slide off the tongue, and provide a powerful impact?

Again, this is something you can do for your own business and for your clients’ businesses!

Think in threes when you write your copy

The third thing to remember is to think in threes when you write your content:

  • There are lots of ways to structure your copy so that you’re able to really leverage the rule of three.

So for example, here we have 37 Signals, presenting their web content in three main points: “Frustration free web-based apps for collaboration, sharing information, and making decisions.”

Another great example is from Despair, Inc. – Heather loves their demotivational posters. Again, we see three concise main points: “Demotivational Posters. Invented here. Perfected here.”

And even looking at Google’s copy, where they’re promoting Google Drive, they use three main bullet points: “Create and collaborate,” “Store everything safely,” and “Search everything.”

So again, once you’re hip to this rule of three, you will notice that it is everywhere – in advertising messages, in books, in magazines, and in speeches – and again, this is something that you can use in your own copy to help that copy pop and make a greater impact.


photo thanks to lrargerich (Luis Argerich)

How to Write Killer Sales Copy: A Video Guide

Greetings! Today we’re featuring our top three SEO copywriting video posts on how to write killer sales copy.

Writing sales copy can be difficult! The art of persuasive writing does not always come naturally or easily to copywriters, especially if they are not trained in direct response theory and best practices. Good sales copy does not need to be heavy handed – the key is to have it flow naturally, while providing a clear call to action to inspire conversions.

Tune in as Heather guides us through how to write powerful, conversions-driving sales copy – as well as what to avoid…

How to tell if your sales copy sucks

In this reader favorite, Heather discusses how to check your sales copy to avoid common and costly mistakes. If you are a DIY small business or new to sales copywriting, there are several ways you can inadvertently go wrong. Learn how to detect these deadly sales copy killers.

3 ways to transform your sucky sales copy into conversions-driving gold

Here, Heather builds on the original video above, with three more tell-tale signs of bad sales copy. Learn how to refine your website’s tone and feel, create specific benefit statements, and use keyphrases deftly to turn your sucky sales copy into conversions-driving gold!

How to translate testimonials into killer sales copy

Finally, Heather shows us how to drawn on customer testimonials to write better sales copy. The benefits conveyed by your happy clients in their testimonials are a fantastic resource to tap for writing your sales pages, providing you with specific benefit statements in a natural voice that can improve both the actual content and tone of your writing. How cool is that?

photo thanks to Vectorportal

What Maslow Can Teach You About Copywriting

Greetings! You’re in for an intriguing SEO copywriting video today, as we enter the realm of customer psychology – specifically, tapping your customers’ psyche to create truly engaging, powerful content!

Based on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” Heather walks us through the emotional (and motivational) levels of the psyche and illustrates how to tie your copy into each one with specific website examples.

So tune in to learn how to make your copy resonate with your customers on their deepest psychological levels, from their most basic physiological needs to their lofty esteem needs and aspirations.

As you’ve most likely gathered from Heather’s webinars and/or some of her blog posts, she discusses the psychology of copywriting a lot. The reason?

  • People make their buy decisions based on psychology: they ultimately buy based on their emotion.

Granted, they do their research, talk to their friends, and do their due diligence, but at the end of the day, their buy decision is an emotional decision.

That’s why…

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

…is so important to copywriting.

  • If you can tie your ad or website copy to something that is part of your customers’ psychological hierarchy of needs, you can write more compelling and powerful copy – content that resonates with what your customers’ are thinking about, are worried about, and/or want to achieve.

This first graphic is a little reminder of what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are, which you may recall from high school or college: at the base of the pyramid are the basic physiological needs for survival, then progressing (evolving) upwards through safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and finally, self-actualization.

This psychological “needs” pyramid represents what Maslow thought we all experience, as we move beyond our instinctual physiological needs of food, water, etc., to the need to become self-actualized human beings.

So what follows is how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can inform and improve your copywriting, illustrated with specific examples from the Web.

Physiological Needs

The Help-4-Homes (Save Your Home Today!) website is a great example of content that is targeted to basic, physical needs: it is geared towards people who are almost in foreclosure and face losing their house.

This is very freaky situation for folks to deal with – they’re confused, they’re scared, and they’re looking for options. The web copy reflects the readers’ feelings with a checklist of concerns: has your mortgage rate been reset (and you can’t afford it)? Have you suffered a financial hardship?

Then at the end of the copy is a really powerful testimonial from a client who affirms that she was going through this problem and contacted the company, and the company was able to help her.

  • The copy ties into those elemental physiological needs and hits those high points with a checklist of concerns, followed by reassurance via a strong testimonial.

If you’re in an industry where physiological needs are the motivating factor, you can look to this example as a template for writing copy that is far more detailed and compelling than just “We can help you save your house” or “We can help you beat foreclosure.”

Safety Needs

An example of a website that addresses the psyche’s need for safety is ADT: they “specialize in home security.”

If you’re in the mindset where you want to buy a home security system, ADT’s benefit statements are most reassuring: it is the gold standard in home security; they offer a personal emergency response system; there is video surveillance plus intrusion detection.

  • These benefit statements are crucial because they help the reader feel safe. They let the reader know that he’s at the right place, he’s working with a company that can help him, and that understands his needs.

So if you’re working with a company that deals with safety, ADT’s web content is a fantastic example of a different way to approach the copy. And again, it is far more powerful than just “We’ll help keep you safe”, as it details specific benefits to help the reader feel at ease.

Social Needs

Here is another core psychological need that we all have, and one that can be tapped in creating copy (and images).

In this example of Pottery Barn’s website, you’ll notice that it really doesn’t say all that much. The company’s writers could do a lot more to flesh it out and make it seem more social, certainly.

But what grabs you is the picture: this cozy table setting with four glasses of wine. It tells a story. Somebody has been there, hanging out with friends, and enjoying the view of the water (presumably Chesapeake Bay). It conveys a very comfortable, social type of environment.

  • So not only can you use words to tie into one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but you can also use images. Remember that you’ll want to make sure that your images are helping to reinforce what you’re saying in the copy.

Esteem Needs

Finally, we’re going to end our discussion with the psyche’s esteem needs: these are the people that want to impress, and that want the best of the best.

The website example here is Dream Homes, where you can browse these spectacular homes and luxury rentals located all over the United States and Mexico.

It is definitely about “living the dream.”

So if you’re working with luxury goods and things that are more exclusive, you could tie your copy into Maslow’s “esteem needs” in his hierarchy: that will help people connect better, because that is precisely what they’re looking for.

  • Folks with esteem-based psychological needs are seeking that exclusivity, that rarity and privilege of an experience that not everyone can have – one that they know they’ll be able to talk about and remember all their lives.

A Concluding Thought

If you’re a copywriter and want to learn how to write better, especially for conversions, then you’ll want to do a lot of reading around psychology. The more you understand about what makes people “tick” and the underlying psychology of their motivation, the better your content will be!


photo thanks to BetterWorks, Inc.

Ignite Your Copy with This Hot Strategy

Greetings! You will love this week’s Web-writing video, as Heather takes it waaaay back old school with her SEO copywriting how-to on writing content the AIDA way.

So what is AIDA? Glad you asked. It’s an acronym for: “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action” and is one of those tried-and-true, powerful copywriting strategies that when skillfully applied, can take your Web writing from lukewarm to smokin’ hot!

Tune in as Heather reveals the magic and mojo of this old-school copywriting strategy:

What’s AIDA?

  • Acronym developed in the late 1800’s.
  • Describes the common phases people go through when viewing an advertisement (or a landing page!)
  • Oldie but goodie – AIDA is still relevant today.

AIDA is an acronym created in the late 1880’s by an advertising executive, describing the common phases most people go through when viewing an (effective) advertisement: attention, interest, desire, then action.

So the elements that you want to have in your copy move people through the sales funnel, from “Oh, this is kinda interesting” to “Oh! I need to buy this right now!”

AIDA is an “oldie but goodie” and still highly relevant today, especially in terms of your landing pages. When people do that search and click on your SERP listing, and then hit your site’s landing page, you want that page to be completely relevant to their needs – particularly if it’s a sales page!

This means that you’ll have to write your content in a certain way that grabs their attention and compels them to take that next conversions step.

So, let’s talk about what AIDA means:

A = Attention

  • It’s important to immediately grab the reader’s attention.
  • Think about your headlines. Are they compelling?
  • To be truly effective, you need to write something that resonates with your target audience.

The first “A” is for Attention: you want to immediately grab the reader’s attention. A lot of times this is done with a compelling headline, although certainly your body copy has to be really powerful, too.

To be truly effective, you need to write something that resonates with your target audience. Heather’s discussed the importance of developing a customer persona and creating content that clicks with your target market many times before, via the SEO Copywriting blog and her YouTube SEO Copywriting channel.

So instead of writing this generalized copy that appeals to everyone, you need to think about the person who is actually going to be visiting your site and looking at your products and services: you want to be sure that your copy speaks to her, directly.

I = Interest

  • You’ve got their attention. Now you have to grab their interest.
  • This is where your benefit statements and “what’s in it for me” comes into play.
  • The benefits need to be targeted towards your specific audience.

You’ve got their attention: you’ve written that killer headline and drawn them into the copy – now, you have to grab their interest.

This is where your precision benefit statements and targeted “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) messages come into play. You’ll notice Heather’s got her WIIFM guy in the screenshot, because again, you’re writing content in a way that is going to resonate with the specific folks who are coming to your site: your target audience. Your benefit statements have to be directed towards them.

So when you’re developing your customer persona, think about who these people are and what is important to them, and make sure your content speaks to that.

D = Desire

  • You’ve got their interest. Now it’s time to spark their desire.
  • Special pricing, additional features and testimonials help build that desire.
  • You’re psychologically helping your prospect feel better about the purchase/contacting you.
  • Help them picture working with you/using your product.

So you’ve got their attention and their interest: now it’s time to get your prospects really thinking that they want your product or your service.

Special pricing offers, bonus goodies and testimonials can be highly effective in nudging your prospects towards making the buy decision. What you’re doing is moving them along the conversion funnel, from “Yeah, you’ve got my attention” to “Yeah! I think that this is something I’m really interested in!”

You want to help your prospects to picture working with you, or using your product.

And finally, it all comes down to….

A = Action

This is where that main conversion happens!

  • Your prospect is ready to buy/convert. Make it easy for them.
  • Add calls to action to your content.
  • Don’t clutter the page and make it confusing.

Your prospects are now ready to buy, to convert, to do whatever it is you want them to do – the key is to make it easy for them.

And this is where a lot of sites fall down: they want people to buy that product, but they make it hard to do so, or they want people to contact them, but then they bury that contact information so it’s really difficult for folks to take that next step.

So make sure that it’s really clear what your prospects need to do to take action, and make sure that it’s really easy to do so!

Some e-commerce folks have that “add to cart” icon on the upper right corner of their home page, which is great. But you can also consider adding a call-to-action to your content.

Another mistake some site owners make is assuming that since their prospects are ready to buy, then it’s an opportune time to throw a bunch of other things at them. This is not the case: you don’t want to confuse or overwhelm your would-be buyers by cluttering up the page. Keep it clear, clean and simple.

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s SEO copywriting how-to, and have a great week (and for U.S. folks, a great holiday weekend)! We’ll be back with another hot SEO Copywriting video tip on the Monday following Memorial Day – June 4th. See you then!

Related reading: Angie Nikoleychuk wrote a fantastic guest post for us about AIDA as it relates to link bait. Check out How to seduce readers and woo – bait – links. Thanks for the inspiration, Angie! :)

Want to learn how to Google-proof your Web copy post-Panda & Penguin? Sign up for the free SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter, either daily or weekly, and get your free copy of Heather’s How to write for Google whitepaper!

photo thanks to EvanLovely

The Conversion Dilemma: AIDA in the Internet Age

 A marketer’s job is to reduce, and hopefully remove, any and all barriers to THE SALE.

The conversion drives everything we do.  Social standing, likability, awareness, fairness, law, order, kittens*, etc . –we care about these things because they potentially impact SALES.  Dollars.  Greenbacks.  Dead Presidents.  Moolah.

And while the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Decision-Action) model is about as new as spats and talkies, the cyber-sales era presents unique issues.

Never before have more sensory cues battled for attention, more products and services vied for interest and more factors affected the decisions of consumers.

And never before has the call to action suffered from more inaction – a national stasis rooted in Internet-capable plasma TVs, Snuggies and Cool Ranch Doritos.

The links of AIDA are rusty at best, snapped at worst; it is a web marketer’s challenge to repair them.

Tactics We’ve Outgrown

Times they are a changin’; we must change with them.  No longer can we count on:

  • Door-to-Door Sales

The only people approaching doors these days are Jehovah’s Witnesses and kids selling auto-renewing Allure subscriptions.  Today, we must communicate personality and likability virtually.

  • Advantage of Location

With a glut of competition accessible in a .27 second Google search, being physically proximate to your consumers is (generally) not good enough.

  • Ignorance

Savvy consumers are accustomed to advertising – this post-modern audience demands interesting and dynamic rationale for purchase.

  • Singularity

Multi-tasking killed the radio star.  Billboards, cellphones, email, IM, TV, streaming, THIS.  Stimuli, stimuli, stimuli… When’s the last time you focused on one thing?

How to Rebuild the AIDA Model

But enough gloom and doom.  Guiding a prospective consumer through the steps of AIDA in this climate is difficult, but not impossible.  Magic wand time.  Do I have your Attention?  Good.  Let’s proceed.


I know you’re there; I just don’t care.

Imagine I walk up and punch you in the face.  Do I have your attention?  Yes?  Would you like to buy this lovely purse filled with diamonds, fat free Cinnabons and peace?

Probably not so much.

While gaining attention is step one – and a necessary step at that – it doesn’t necessarily translate into interest.  If you annoy, aggravate and otherwise antagonize your target, attention can have the opposite reaction.  Hitler got Poland’s attention, but they certainly weren’t buying what he was selling.

The link between attention and interest is broken when:

The attention is negative –OR–The target becomes interested in the campaign, but not the product it’s promoting.

  • Solution

Unless you are SOLELY interested in awareness, avoid campaigns that are entirely reliant on entertainment value.   There are simply too many things competing for eyeballs today (YouTube / Tivo / Cats that look like Hitler).

Tether the advertising campaign to your product with social media, optimized copy and a brand personality consistent with the wants and needs of your target market.  Internet marketers must establish a direct connection between campaign and product that delivers consumer value.


I’m interested in what you’re selling… but not interested enough to decide to buy.

These folks are perhaps best described as fence sitters – consumers that need the cattle prod.  Absent using an actual cattle prod (which would be both impractical and illegal), internet marketers need to take the concept virtual.

  • Solution

INCENTIVIZE.  This is where “deals” and other drivers – flash sales, discounts on shipping, coupons for “liking” the Facebook page, sales aimed at specific groups – can tip the scale.  The internet is particularly good at creating a sense of immediacy; use it.  Emphasize that NOW is the time to buy and try.


I’ve decided to buy this product, but…

You’re on the one yard line, but for some reason, you’re not scoring.  Your mission: ID that blocker and take him out.

  • Solution

Use Google Analytics to identify bounce / exit pages and gather stats on cart abandonment.  Isolate and remove major barriers to purchase, such as:


While follow-up is part of any successful sales strategy, MODERATE.  Asking too much of your customers (questions, password creation and the like) is a sure-fire way to provoke a hasty exit.  It is often difficult to recognize when assertive jumps track into annoying, so monitor interactions.  Just because you can’t SEE your target doesn’t mean the feedback loop doesn’t exist.


Manage expectations early.  If there’s a big pill to swallow (for example, shipping is a zillion dollars), don’t sock customers with it at the very end.  If you find shipping fees prove to be a constant transactional impediment, build that cost into the item’s core price.  Also, keep in mind the “H” of S&H is regarded as highly suspect by many consumers.

Method of Payment

Make buying online as easy as possible.  Don’t expect consumers to hunt down credit cards – offer them options like (Godsend!) Paypal.

Sales and Delivery Models

Evaluate potential stumbling blocks to initial and repeat business.  Is auto-renewal scaring off sales?  Do deliveries require an in-person signature?  Is a slow website inducing customer comas?  All of these factors can affect an income statement.  A-B tests can answer some of these questions.

Thank you for wading through my webmarketacular.  Feel free to disagree (or even agree!) with me in the comments.

*I care about kittens.  Fundamentally.  Practically exclusively.

About the Author – Katie Fetting-Schlerf

Katie Fetting-Schlerf is a copywriter and all around marketing whiz-kid at Portent, an internet marketing company.  She would like to impress her employers, so feel free to ‘like’ the crap out of this post. You can find Katie on Twitter @KatieLFetting.