Updated: Nov 2
Not all writing is copywriting. Copywriting is writing with a purpose - to attract, engage, and convert your ideal customer. If you're just putting words on the page, you're leaving money on the table. Here are 15+ copywriting techniques you can use to improve your website copy and increase conversions.
Not all writing is copywriting. Despite the misconception that 'anyone can write', not everyone can write effective copy.
Copywriting is a specific discipline that combines marketing, psychology, and the written word to drive the reader to take a desired action - like making a purchase or signing up for a trial.
To achieve this, professional writers use different copywriting techniques - like emotional appeal or a sense of urgency - to compel their readers to take action.
If you're working under the misapprehension that copywriting is just writing, you're almost certainly losing customers and conversions.
Here are 15+ common copywriting techniques you can use to improve the performance of your website or email marketing.
[Forgive the weight loss examples - they’re just the first ones that spring to mind as I’m trying to get trim and my Facebook feed is FULL of weight loss ads. I’m firmly in the camp that every body is beautiful. These examples are just to showcase copywriting techniques ✌️].
Copywriting Technique 1: The Rule of One
It’s appropriate that this technique is number one on the list. It's the most important one to remember.
The Rule of One in copywriting means focusing on one specific audience member, with one specific problem, and one clear message about how you’re going to solve it.
In copywriting, if you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.
It’s better to target one highly motivated buyer with a strong single message that moves them to make a purchase, than a mix of weak messages that vaguely address multiple audiences and moves none of them to purchase.
One big idea
You can find your pain points and messages through market and customer research. This leads us on to copywriting technique 2...
Copywriting Technique 2: Research
This isn’t an on-page copy technique but it is the foundation of all good marketing - copywriting research. Two essential types of copywriting research you need to do are:
Voice-of-market research is when you seek out the opinions of people who are in the market for your product but who haven’t bought it (yet!). This tells you about the problems the market is trying to solve and why.
Voice-of-Customer research is when you solicit the opinion of people who have bought your product. You might commission original research like a customer focus group, survey, or one-to-one interviews. You can also find this sort of info through desk research - for example, looking at online reviews of your product.
Copywriting Technique 3: Pain points
A pain point in copywriting is the specific problem, frustration or need that a potential customer is trying to address. For example, losing weight. Once you’ve identified the pain point of your audience you can position your product as the solution - by showing how your product makes that pain go away.
Knowing pain points helps you write ‘benefit-led’ copy and tap into the emotions people feel about their problem (more on both of these later).
For example, some pain points around weight loss might be:
Feeling frustrated that you can’t seem to shift the 7lbs you gained on holiday
Worrying that you won’t fit into the suit you bought for your wedding
In copywriting, you would lead your sales copy with these pain points rather than just describing your product.
✅ Frustrated your holiday weight won’t budge? Drop 7lbs in two weeks with SlimZapz
❌ Our product helps you lose weight fast.
This example also uses specificity - more on that later.
Copywriting Technique 4: Dream state
The dream state is what your customer wants to get to. It’s how they’ll feel - or what they’ll achieve - if they buy your product. It’s often the opposite of their pain point.
Painting a vivid picture of the readers’ dream state helps engage their emotions and move them towards your desired goal.
For example, imagine you sell a balm for babies that helps them sleep more easily. Obviously, the baby isn’t buying your product, the sleep-deprived parents are. Their pain point is lack of sleep - and their dream state is that their baby sleeps through the night, so they can too.
Here’s how you could use that dream state to move them towards purchase.
‘Say goodbye to broken sleep and bleary mornings. Get eight hours of sleep with SnoozyBalm. Because it isn’t just baby who deserves to sleep through the night.’
Copywriting Technique 5: You, not we
The biggest mistake I see in copywriting is when businesses write about themselves, not their customers. Your customer doesn’t come to your website to read about YOU. They want to know how THEY will benefit from your product.
So you need to write about THEM. Their problems. Their frustrations, Their needs. Only then do you go onto how YOU can help.
One way to fix this is to check your website or your emails and look for words like ‘We’, ‘Us’, and ‘Our’ - especially at the top of your copy. If you are making this mistake, think how you can change this to focus more on the customer.
We’ve been making pasta sauce for over 50 years
Families have made mealtime memories with Italia Pasta Sauces for over 50 years
Copywriting Technique 6: Features, Advantages, and Benefits (FAB)
Our next FAB tip is not to focus solely on the features of your product. You also need to highlight the benefits of using it, and the advantages of your product over those of your competitors.
Imagine you sell non-stick frying pans. Here's how you could apply the FAB copywriting framework.
Features tell people what your product does or has (eg Non-stick coating, 10-year guarantee)
Advantages tell people why you’re better than other alternatives - such as other manufacturers or struggling on with your existing pan (eg Food slides off effortlessly, less fat needed)
Benefits tell people what they get from buying your product (eg Eggs on your plate, not stuck in the pan, or The perfect fried egg without any oil)
Benefits typically address the pain point of your buyer. Whether the buyer is trying to eat more healthily, or just sick of scrubbing their old frying pan.
Benefit-led copy is when your messages focus on the benefit to the reader, rather than talking about yourself and your product straight away. This is more engaging because - remember - your reader is always more interested in themselves than in you.
Copywriting Technique 7: Emotional appeal
We don’t just buy with our logical brain - picking the cheapest or the best-rated product. We also buy based on emotion - how we feel about a product or the promise it makes to us. This is why the best copywriters appeal to readers’ emotions.
These might be positive emotions - like hope - or negative emotions - like fear of missing out (FOMO). Positive emotions tend to tap into the dream state of the reader.
It IS possible to get more sleep, even with a newborn - taps into hope
Get on the waiting list for the phone everyone wants - taps into desire
Enjoy juicy steak and still lose weight - taps in enjoyment
Negative emotions tap into pain points or fears.
Don’t miss your chance to save - taps into FOMO
Stop struggling with overwhelm - reminds the reader of feeling awful
Don’t hide your body on the beach this summer - taps into shame (I know, yuk, right? I hate stuff like that)
Emotional appeal can also include sensual language - language that evokes the senses - such as the sense of taste or touch. I remember buying leggings on the basis that the material was described as 'buttery smooth' and so it was. So much that I still think 'ooo buttery' every time I put them on.
Copywriting Technique 8: Sense of urgency
Creating a sense of urgency is when you use some sort of constraint to encourage readers to take action straight away - perhaps faster than they normally would.
This copywriting technique is to make sure they actually follow through on their action there and then, rather than go away and think about it (and maybe change their mind).
You might have spotted it in the last example above. Don’t hide your body on the beach this summer. Suddenly, there’s a time limit!
Examples of urgency or scarcity-based copy
Hurry: Sale ends Sunday
While stocks last - going fast
Offer ends tomorrow
Early bird discount for first 50 customers
Urgency-based copy is often supported by other on-screen features to underline the issue. For example...
A countdown timer that literally shows time ticking away - so they feel compelled to act fast
Something that says ‘Only three left in stock’ when someone adds an item to their basket - so they checkout rather than leave it till later
Remember, unless there is a real risk of missing out, this approach is successful but kinda shady.
Copywriting Technique 9: Social proof
People are more likely to trust what customers say about your product than what you say about it. It’s human nature. Marketing has taught us to be skeptical and savvy. That’s why you need to include social proof in copywriting.
Social proof in copywriting is when you include quotes, testimonials, or other evidence from third parties in your copy. Seeing that other people trust and value your product reassures potential customers that they can too.
Social proof might look different for B2C and B2B businesses (check out the difference between B2C and B2B if you're not sure what this means).
Examples of using social proof in copywriting
Direct quotes from reviews or testimonials included on your homepage or product page
Stats about how many customers already use you - eg Join 10,600 people losing weight with SlimZapz or SlimZapz customers have lost a staggering 250,041lbs
Third-party evidence - such as embedding TrustPilot scores
External endorsements and recommendations - eg G2 or TripAdvisor
Logos of businesses that use your services
Full case studies about client success
Copywriting Technique 10: PAS framework
PAS stands for pain, agitation, and solution. It’s a copywriting framework that helps you structure your copy. You start with the readers’ pain point, agitate it to really stir the emotions, and then present your product as the solution.
Simple example of the PAS copywriting framework
Pain point: Looking for a healthier way to cook food?
Agitation: Sick of greasy, oily frying pans? Worried about all that fat going into your food?
Solution: Cook without oil in a non-stick frying pan, for healthier family meals
An extended version of this approach is the ‘Story brand’ approach (article incoming!)
Copywriting Technique 11: AIDA framework
AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. This copywriting framework is designed to grab the readers’ attention, pique their interest, create desire, and then move them into action.
You can combine AIDA with other techniques - like social proof or sense of urgency - to make it really effective.
Simple example of the AIDA copywriting technique
Attention: Wedding suit too tight? Regretting buying a size to slim into?
Interest: Don’t worry! You can lose 10lbs in two weeks with SlimZapz
Desire: Feel smart and comfortable on your big day
Action: Type code GROOM for your 10% discount - hurry, ends Sunday
Copywriting Technique 12: The Call-to-Action
A call-to-action (or CTA) is how you convert readers ‘ interest in a purchase or other desirable goal (For example, downloading an ebook, signing up for a free trial, or subscribing to a newsletter.)
Up to this point, your copy should have been making an irresistible argument for your reader to take the next step with you. The CTA is the closer. It’s the invitation to take action that they simply can’t refuse.
Too many web pages go nowhere. They’re a dead end. They get you all excited but don’t give you a next step. So the reader shrugs and clicks off elsewhere. You’ve lost them. You need to learn how to write a killer call-to-action.
A call-to-action captures that interest and takes the reader to the next step. It could just be a button
Add to cart
Or it could be more creative and linked to the pain point you’re targeting - or even the sense of urgency.
Yes, I want healthier meals!
Take me to my weight loss plan
Give me my early bird discount
Copywriting Technique 13: Opposites
Okay, so we know opposites attract. But, in copywriting, opposites create irresistible curiosity and add playfulness to your copy. They typically compare a negative with a positive, highlighting the benefit of your product or service.
In a headline, they can encourage someone to read on. You’ll all be familiar with this classic copywriting juxtaposition.
Goodbye X, hello Y - eg Goodbye tension, hello relaxation with SpaTwilight
From X to Y - eg From up-all-night to sleeps-through-the-night with SnoozyBalm
Less X, more Y - eg Less stress, more yes with Write on Tyne copywriting services
But opposites also work in longer copy too - to show how your product or service takes someone from their pain point to their dream state.
For example: Babies are amazing. But sleepless nights aren’t. Help your baby sleep through with SnoozyBalm.
Copywriting Technique 14: Address objections
Copywriting is an exercise in overcoming objections. You have to imagine your reader is a hostile witness - someone who is going to resist everything you have to say. That’s why we use social proof to build our credibility. That’s why we build trust by showing we understand their pain points.
Another way to overcome readers’ objections is to address them head-on. For example, someone reading about our imaginary slimming brand might doubt it’ll work for them, as they’ve had failed diets in the past.
They can address this directly by saying ‘Wondering if it’ll work for you? Sally did too. After years of yo-yo dieting, Sally thought nothing would work. Hear how she lost 10lbs easily with SlimZapz - and kept it off!’
Social proof works brilliantly for overcoming objections.
Copywriting Technique 15: Specificity
Specificity in copywriting is about using detail and facts to increase credibility and give readers something concrete to focus on.
For example, in our imaginary copy for SlimZapz, instead of just saying ‘Lose weight fast’ we’re saying ‘Lose 10lbs in 2 weeks’. Why?
Well, because ‘lose weight’ is vague - how much weight? And ‘fast’ is subjective. To you, it might mean months but to others, it might mean days. Whereas Lose 10lbs in 2 weeks is perfectly clear. The reader knows exactly what you’re promising.
Specificity can work well for social proof. For example, instead of a software company saying they’re ‘Trusted by 10,000 businesses like yours’, it sounds more credible when they’re specific ‘10,071 businesses trust XYZ software - and that’s growing every day’.
Copywriting Technique 16: Yes questions
Asking yes questions draws customers into your copy using their pain points. For example ‘Are you sick of small print? Caught out by hidden credit card charges? Join Upfront - the honest banking app’.
Be careful not to use questions where people can answer No. For example ‘Want to sign up to our banking app?’ When confronted with such a stark decision - one based on what YOU want instead of what THEY want - they’re likely to back away.
Yes questions work well in calls-to-action too. For example, you’re a software vendor and your app promises to shave 30 hours off the working week through productivity savings.
If your 'one message' has focused on saving this time, it makes sense for your CTA to reinforce that by saying ‘Ready to be more productive?’ or ‘Want to save 30 hours a week?’
Notice how the first example above also follows the PAS framework we discussed. Pain. Agitation. Solution. Copywriting techniques don't work in isolation. A skilled copywriter brings them all together.
Surprised by how much strategy and psychology goes into copywriting? Realizing that writing your own web copy might have been a mistake? Don't risk your website underperforming. Get in touch now and let's fix it together.
About the author
Libby Marks is an award-winning copywriter and content marketer. After 15+ years in marketing and communications, she escaped the 9-to-5 and started Write on Tyne.
Write on Tyne is a small content and copywriting agency dedicated to making marketing managers' lives easier.
We provide top-notch copy for campaigns, content marketing, and websites - underpinned by expertise in marketing strategy and SEO.