How to write a persuasive copy for your ad or landing page: a list of forbidden and powerful words to use
Copywriting is the process of crafting messages that drive the reader to take an action about something.
Although nowadays copywriting is generally related to increase sales, this technique has many other goals such as changing people’s perception about a subject, hence being an old technique used by writers, film producers, politicians and businesspeople to promote their opinions.
In old days, the term copy was used to describe the text of printed magazines. Today, it goes beyond printing and is used to describe radio, TV, videos, blogs and podcasts content.
To reach the goals set by these channels, a copy must be persuasive.
We can determine if a copy is persuasive, in online businesses, if it increases the number of sales made, increases the number of signups in the platform or mailing list, increases the open rate of emails and clicks on links, increases the number of shares, likes, and engagement, among other KPIs that you set and can read in your analytics platform (such as google analytics, MailChimp dashboards, and other tools).
How to write a persuasive copy?
The first step to create a copy is to identify who’s your target persona.
If you already have a website running for a couple of months or years, this task is easy to do if you have good traffic. You no longer need to sit down for many hours thinking about who might buy your product. Just open your google analytics, go to audience and you’ll have all information about who is using your website or product, based on their location, type of devices used, and many other variables that allows you to target your leads.
Once you have your persona defined, you’ll be able to determine how your message should be crafted – which words to use, which colors, images, and length. Then we go to the next step.
The second step is listening. Listen and read the complains and compliments people write on your website and platforms you use to distribute your products. Listen and list what the market wants. Listening to your market will allow you to remove from your copy everything that goes against their desires, and increase your persuasion.
The third thing to do is avoid being self-absorbed and write your messages as if it they were delivered to you. Write them for your reader. Write what the reader would like to read, not what you would like to read.
Listening to your market allows you to avoid falling on the traps shown at the third step.
To reach this third goal, you must get rid of your ego and the voice in your head that tells you that you’re better/ smarter than other people in this world.
Avoid complimenting yourself too much. If you say you’re better than competition, why then is the competition clients list still growing? How do you perceive being better, best, bigger, smarter or faster than competition?
Complimenting your product doesn’t tell the user how it will help them solve their own problems.
The third step opens the way to the fourth step, which is the core of this article – picking the right words.
The impact and results of your ad or landing page is determined by the words you choose – yes! And, also, by images, illustrations, and other elements, but these are topics for another article.
The words presented in your copy should make it sound catchy, timeless and authoritative (in a good way).
Catchy words are important to call the reader’s attention. They are the first they see when look at your ad or landing page. They generally are titles, styled in bold or different colors, or bigger font sizes.
Besides the styling, catchy headlines should be short, clear and capture readers attention by generating in them some kind of emotion - grief, anger, happiness, fear, joy, etc. It should make them smile or serious, depending on your goal. It should make them intrigued, curious or revolted.
Your ad or landing page copy should sound contemporary. Should be about topics that interest your readers currently. It should be presented as a solution for a current problem.
Just as the problem, your grammar should also be adequate to present times. Don’t go on using thou, doth and didst with young millennials who never came across with one of these words.
Your content should direct the user to perform a certain task. If you introduce your product to a prospect but you don’t demonstrate interest in selling it, they won’t buy it.
People love to be guided and advised, and your call-to-action buttons or words serve this purpose.
In your ad or landing page copy, you should ask them to buy something, sign up to your list, or do any other thing, otherwise they won’t do it.
But don’t look like a salesman. Marketing today revolves around talking. It should look like a conversation between two friends that, ends in the purchase of a product.
Your words should not sound too authoritative in a way that people feel forced to buy your product.
People like to be told what to do or buy, but they don’t like to perceive that they are losing their control.
Words cover most of the steps we mentioned above. We listen to words, communicate with people using words, describe our product using words and, in the end, ask people to do the things we want using words.
Words are persuasive when selected properly, what makes us question: which words should we use or avoid when writing ad or landing pages content?
To start talking about forbidden words, we recommend reading David Meerman Scoot “The Gobbledygook Manifesto”, in which he lists empty buzzwords generally used by companies and justified as industry terms.
Meernan starts by suggesting us to avoid terms such as “flexible, scalable, groundbreaking, industry-standard, cutting-edge from a market-leading, well-positioned”, because they are empty and don’t express any specific thing when used. He calls these words gobbledygook.
In many times, buyers are interested in knowing the problems your product solves before making a purchase. But the usage of these buzzwords by copywriters doesn’t reach this goal mainly because, as Meerman says:
… these writers don’t understand how their products solve customer problems, they cover by explaining how the product works and pepper his blather with industry jargon.
Because many copywriters – due to laziness, lack of creativity or not knowing the product – use gobbledygook words in their copy, others keep adopting them without perceiving its uselessness.
These words are trendy, hype, fashionable, sound good to say, and makes them look like their peers, but in the end sells little, to nothing.
Other buzzwords Meerman found in his research, and that you should avoid using on your landing page and ads are:
- Easy to use
- Mission critical
- Best of breed
- User friendly
Did you think that terrible copy has only the words pointed above? No. They also have empty words such as innovative, awesome, fantastic, amazing, best, fast-delivery, fast-growing, high-quality, excellent, sustainable, and jargons that make the sentences longer than the necessary.
If many copywriters use the same words, what makes one product different from another? Who should the user select? The one that stands out. The one whose seller goes against the practices of the others.
Words become forbidden if used without showing the benefits or metrics that justify the statement.
Statements such as “We sell high-quality, industry standard mattresses”, are empty arguments. What is quality? How did you measure it? Which industry are we talking about? Which standards – from USA, from Europe, from South Africa or India? How was the sleeping of the people who bought it? What do they say?
Switch that argument to something like this said by emma:
The UK's Most Awarded Mattress, Made in the UK.
Our exceptional product quality has been proven to provide the greatest sleeping experience. With awards, endorsements and recommendations from notable testing agencies such as Which? The Independent, T3, Good Housekeeping and many more. Our Emma Original is the UK’s most-awarded mattress in 2019, but don’t just take their word for it! Take advantage of our risk-free 200-night trial and try it out yourself.
Who wouldn’t want to buy this mattress after reading this copy? And hey… besides quality they offer 200-night free trial! That’s mind blowing. It defies convection in the traditional mattress industry.
Gobbledygook words can be used in a copy, only, if they are attached to statements that deepens the meaning of the word, such as the example above – it’s not just of high-quality. It’s a quality certified by T3, and other agencies.
A persuasive copy is made up of sentences that put the products solutions first (the benefits), and secondly its specifications, awards, and other minor elements.
By choosing to point the benefits of the product first, you show that you’re interested in solving you customers problem, instead of just making a sale.
If there are forbidden words to use in copywriting, there are also powerful words to be attached in sentences such as “you”, “imagine”, “because”, “exclusive”, “free” and “new”.
Just like forbidden words, powerful words should be attached to other words to provide a deep understanding, otherwise its meaning will be vague.
The main difference between powerful words and forbidden words is the effort we’d need to make to persuade the user.
Powerful words shorten the persuasion time. They are catchy. They trigger emotions in the human brain faster than gobbledygook words.
Think about these two examples:
- Buy now our groundbreaking and fantastic smartphone, featuring 10 cameras on the back while remaining thin and light. Free deliver included.
- Buy now our new smartphone, with improved camera that allows you to take sharp photos of your family moments and so thin it won’t add weight in your purse. By buying it you join our exclusive members list and have it delivered in your house in less than 44 minutes.
Which one you think would sell better?
Obviously the second one.
The first example doesn’t show any real benefit, doesn’t promise to solve any problem the user is facing currently. It’s all about specs and design. Ah! And hurrying the customer to buy the product.
Now the second one, although it also rushes the user to buy the phone, it shows the benefits offered by the phone, by making use of powerful words. Now – to make the user take a decision quickly. New and exclusive – to give prestige, show uniqueness, and increase user’s perceived social status. Improved – to tell that it got better than the last year’s model. Family moments – Who hates that family supper? And delivered in 44 minutes – users become comfortable when they know when the product/ service will be offered/ arrive.
There is no such thing as uncertainty, hence by telling the user that the product will arrive in 44 minutes (not fast) gives them relaxation and shows your credibility. Shows that you studied them and knows where they live and took other factors under consideration. 44, not 30, 60 minutes or 1 hour. 44 minutes shows that you made all calculations and are being honest (even if you did no math).
There are many other powerful words. A powerful word gives the user reassurance, exclusivity, urgency, a sense of caring, a chance to save money, be part of a community, and eliminate pain.
There are many powerful words for me to point in this article.
The following links are articles that list these words and that you can consult every time you need to write your next ad or landing page content.