Writing effective web copy is either an art or a science, depending on who you ask. While there is no single tried-and-true web copywriting formula that works for every site, there are several methods copywriters can select from to create website copy that sells.
Here are 9 essential website copywriting formulas every professional copywriter should have in their arsenal.
1. The Four U’s Approach
While the copywriting trainers at American Writers and Artists teach this method for writing headlines, it applies just as well to any copywriting. Essentially, the Four U’s approach to copywriting states that your content must:
1. Be USEFUL to the reader. How can you help? Be specific about tangible benefits or results.
2. Provide him with a sense of URGENCY. What problem can you solve? Use forceful words and persuasive copy to convey a sense of urgency.
3. Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE. The chances are pretty good that your business has competition. Tell your reader why your product or service is not a run-of-the-mill solution.
4. Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way. This is where tone and detail come into play, and this step often makes or breaks the conversion. Your approach to the content becomes its personality, and will attract interest if done well.
AIDA is an old standard formula that works for everything from web copy to blog posts. Essentially, AIDA boils down everything effective copywriting hopes to achieve into four simple words:
The first step, Attention, involves knowing your audience and addressing their needs. Once your intro copy has attracted their attention, build Interest by writing descriptive copy in the right tone of voice. The next step is to incite Desire for your product or service by describing how you will make their life better in some way. Finally, clear the road for your reader to take Action. Convince them to act now, take away any barriers, and generally make it easy for them to take a desirable action.
While AIDA is a time-tested and copywriter-approved formula, some writers prefer the PAS method, next up on our list, for web copywriting.
This copywriting method is a favorite of long-time successful copywriter Dan Kennedy and is as effective as it is simple.
- Problem: State the problem (whether in your industry or specific to your reader).
- Aggravate: Stir it up by addressing how the problem negatively affects your reader.
- Solve: Don your cape and come to your reader’s rescue with a product or service that solves the problem.
4. Be Clear
This is more of a philosophy than a method, but it encapsulates the heart of effective website copywriting. It basically goes like this:
- Be clear.
That’s it. Websites are not books; internet readers are skimming core content, not reading paragraphs. While good grammar and spelling skills apply to the written word in any context, web copy is unique.
No matter how compelling your story or life-changing your widget, if your web copy isn’t clear you’ll lose your reader before they ever become a customer.
5. The 1-2-3-4 Formula
This timeless copywriting formula is one of the simplest:
1. What I’ve got for you. (Introduces the product or service.)
2. What it’s going to do for you. (The problem it will solve.)
3. Who am I? (Or, why you should trust me.)
4. What you need to do next. (Explains how to take action.)
6. Star. Story. Solution.
If you like simplicity and have a hard time remembering long acronyms, you’re in luck! This system is easy to memorize and captures the essence of storytelling through copy.
- Star: The focus of your story, whether it is the reader, your company, or a product.
- Story: Describes the Star’s trials and tribulations, a problem the Star faces, and what the Star does or needs.
- Solution: Provides an action that the Star can take to solve the problem at hand.
7. The 4 P’s
The 4 P’s copywriting method takes the focus off of your product or service and puts your reader’s problem in the spotlight. The general idea is to describe the reader’s problem and how it can be solved, gradually narrowing the path toward the solution, which of course was your product all along. The 4 P’s explained:
1. Promise: Start off by promising them that their problem (which you’ve named) can be solved.
2. Paint: Describe how beautiful life will be without the problem.
3. Proof: Point to others who are now living the radiant, problem-free life.
4. Push: Tell him what to do. This is your call to action.
This is a simple yet powerful formula by marketing genius Victor O. Schwab.
1. Attention: Get your readers attention.
2. Advantage: Tell them how you can help.
3. Prove: Give them data, statistics and testimonials.
4. Persuade: Convince them to let you help.
5. Action: Ask them to take action.
9. The ABC Checklist for Copywriting
Finally, we come to one of the more intricate copywriting methods, but one that is especially effective in web copy and marketing content. The ABC’s of copywriting:
- Attain Attention
- Bang out Benefits
- Create Verbal Pictures
- Describe Success Incidents
- Endorse With Testimonials
- Feature Special Details
- Gild With values
- Honor Claims With guarantees
- Inject Action in Reader
- Jell With Postscript
That’s a long one that you might want to print out and tack up on your corkboard, but it neatly summarizes what your web copywriting should do.
Doing a job well often involves having the right tools on hand, and effective copywriting formulas are a valuable element in any professional copywriter’s toolbox.
Do you utilize any of these copywriting methods? Have some of your own you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
You might check out some of Gary Halbert’s copywriting tips at http://thegaryhalbertletter.com. Until his demise a few years ago, Gary published a newsletter every month and conducted copywriting seminars around the country, hammering his readers with intriguing, goading, coaxing copy to attend and learn his magic.
Also, as to Oglivy’s comments, he made these observations in “The Unpublished David Ogilvy,” supporting your ABC’s point rather well:
Every advertisement must tell the whole
sales story, because the public does not
read advertisements in series.The copy must be human and very
simple, keyed right down to its market –
a market in which self-conscious artwork
and fine language serve only to make
Every word in the copy must count.
Concrete figures must be substituted for
atmospheric claims; clichés must give
way to facts, and empty exhortations to
Facetiousness in advertising is a
device dear to the amateur but anathema
to the advertising agent, who knows that
permanent success has rarely been built
on frivolity and that people do not buy
Superlatives belong to the
marketplace and have no place in aserious advertisement; they lead readers
to discount the realism of every claim.
Apparent monotony of treatment must
be tolerated, because only the
manufacturer reads all his own