Here are a list of terms you might come across when reading or studying copywriting, with definitions to help.
Feel free to bookmark it so that you can refer to it as and when you need it!
Above the Fold
This is taken from newspaper days and refers to the part that would show on the front page of a newspaper above the fold line. On websites, this is the area of your website that visitors can see without having to scroll down. Because of the increased attention this area gets, you want to use it for copy and design that gets your customer’s attention.
This is a style of advertising, which looks like an independent article offering some kind of useful information. In magazines, these will take on a similar form to the regular articles, but will usually have “promotion” or “advertisement” in small type somewhere on the page. An example of this might be an online article about “10 ways to check for damp in your home” written by a company that provides damp proofing and offers their service at the end of the article.
This is a sequence of automated emails sent to a prospect or customer who has opted into your mailing list or purchased a product from you. Usually the autoresponder will contain useful information to the customer relevant to the mailing list or product they have purchased. It may then lead into a further offer.
These pieces are written and scheduled in advance so that they are delivered automatically after the trigger action of an opt-in or purchase.
This stands for “business-to-business” copywriting. B2B copywriting sells a product or service to other businesses, rather than directly to consumers. For example selling engineering software or technology to oil and gas companies, or selling printing services to a publishing firm.
One of the main differences with B2B copywriting is that a business usually knows they need a certain technology or software and will go through a more rigorous buying process compared to consumer purchases. Often businesses will research and buy products by committee and have to have budgets approved. As a result B2B copywriting needs to focus on features and details that can help businesses evaluate and justify the benefits of the products to their colleagues and superiors.
This stands for “business-to-consumer” copywriting and is a style of copywriting used to sell products directly to the consumer.
The benefits are the reason your customers are interested in buying from you. They extend further than features and show how the customer’s life will improve by having the product or service in their life.
The benefit of a web design company is that they help businesses improve their online image and attract more clients. The benefit of a dog-walking service is that dog owners have more time for themselves without the guilt of neglecting their lovable pooch!
Bonus / Incentive
Bonuses and incentives are used to create additional value to the original offer. Increasing the value by throwing in something which has its own separate value can be very persuasive to customers. Bonuses can by physical products, or information products, or bonus services such as free consultations, or a free trial.
Business Reply Card
This is a card pre-addressed with the businesses name and address on, possibly with postage paid that the customer can fill out to make an order. Making an offer as simple as possible to accept can increase responses.
You know how in magazine articles, they’ll have a little area of an enlarged quotation, or a bubble with larger text in that refers to the article itself? That’s a call out. They’re designed to help you read snippets of details about the article or copy and encourage you to read the body copy. Ideally they should highlight benefits, or intriguing aspects of the product that will arouse your customer’s curiosity.
Call to Action
In copywriting your call to action (copywriting commandment no. 10) is the whole purpose of the piece of copy you are writing. It tells your reader what it is you want them to do. For example, buy, sign up, return a response card. Strong calls to action are specific, compelling and should have a sense of urgency.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
Most used in email marketing, this is the measurement of how many people who opened your email, clicked through on a hyperlink that was included in the email.
The control is a piece of copywriting used in a promotion repeatedly that creates the best results. This is most used in companies that are sending out hundreds or thousands of repeat promotions. Knowing the performance of the control lets a business test other versions of copywriting to see if they can “beat the control”. I f apiece of copy gets better results than the control, that one will be the piece widely used, and become the new control.
For every piece of copywriting, there has to be a goal. Whether you want your readers to share your copy on social media, to buy your product, sign up to a mailing list or call your office. That goals needs to be measurable so that you can discover your conversion rate. Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who took the action you wanted them to compared to the total number of people who read the copy.
So for example if you know you have 100 unique visitors to your sales page and made 5 sales, your conversion rate would be 5 out of 100 = 5%
Of if you see that in a week you get 500 visitors to your newsletter page and get 25 subscribers, your conversion rate that week is 30 out of 500.
So the percentage is 30 /500 * 100 = 6%
By studying your conversion rates you can see which pieces of copy are working, and you can also use this knowledge to plan future promotions. If you know that a piece of copy converts at 5% and you want to make 100 sales, you know you need to attract 2000 people to your sales page.
Copy refers to any piece of copywriting.
Your customers have to believe that you can deliver the promise you make, that you can be trusted, and that your copy can be believed. This all comes down to credibility. In a cynical world where people have been lied to in advertising, building credibility is a critical step in the success of your copywriting.
Customer Profile / Customer Persona
This is an outline of an individual within your target market. It outlines their interests, problems, emotional triggers and is an integral part of writing copy which connects with your ideal customer.
Demographics are used to categorise the population by statistical data. When thinking about demographics, you’re thinking about the hard facts that differentiate and unite your customer with other people. For example gender, geographic location, age, job, marital status, number of children.
Demographics are key to tailoring copywriting to a specific audience. For example if you were selling houses to first time buyer couples in New York, your copy would look very different to selling houses to retirement couples in Florida.
Demographics paint a picture of your customer that help you complete your customer profile or persona.
Direct Response Copywriting
This is copywriting designed to achieve a specific, measurable and immediate action. A sales page that asks people to buy is direct response copywriting. You can see instantly whether or not people took the action to buy.
A landing page encouraging sign ups to a newsletter is also direct response because the reader either signs up or they don’t. Either way there is a response that can be measured immediately.
The contrast to this is advertising you often see in magazines and billboards which is simply to remind you of the presence of a company, without actually asking you to take immediate action.
This is a form of marketing by using email to a specific list to let them know about offers. Often it is target communication based on different email lists to target markets.
This is a regular newsletter put out by organisations that let readers keep up to date with the company. In addition to regular news, it is often a part of an email marketing campaign by interspersing useful articles with specific offers.
Your features are the specific details of your product or service. Think of this as the facts of what you offer. For a service this might be consultation, analysis, review, so many hours of service, revisions etc. for a product it could be the dimensions, number of pages, chapter contents.
Anything which describes WHAT is being offered is a good way to think about your features.
Your guarantee are the terms you promise to keep in case your customer changes his mind, or is unsatisfied with the purchase.
The headline kicks off any promotion. Your headline is usually at the top of your copy, and highlights a reason why your reader should continue reading.
Hooks are used to grab your customer’s attention. They may be unusual facts, or overwhelming benefits that get your reader interested and keep them riveted to your copy.
Your ideal customer is similar to your customer profile or persona. It is the type of person who would be the perfect match to your service or product. Not all customers are ideal customers. For example you may offer marketing advice, but really want to target technology companies. Someone who wants to hire you to help them market their chocolate bars is still a customer, but you may not be happy serving them because you find chocolate boring compared to ball bearings.
Knowing your ideal customer is important when you write copy so that you can tailor your message to attract the kind of clients or customers that make you happy when working for them or selling to them.
Keywords are the words people use when using search engines to find the solution you offer. If you sell homemade sweets, your keywords may be: sweets, homemade sweets, homemade sweets with local delivery”
Once you know your keywords you can include these in your copywriting to make your site more likely to be found when people search for these terms in sites like Google.
Know, Like and Trust
The idea that people buy from companies that they “know, like and trust”. Copywriting is used to strengthen your relationship with potential customers based on these attributes.
A landing page is a one off page that exists on its own rather than as part of a larger website. It is usually used to make a sale or capture information, and will consists of one page only that contains all the information a reader needs to make a buying decision. There are no links to any other sites, and the only action a reader can make is to make a purchase or leave the website.
Lede / Lead
This is a journalism term and refers to the introductory paragraph of your copy. It has an important role in giving people a flavour of what they are about to read in a way that makes them want to continue.
In direct mail packages (but also now virtually online) a lift note would be a small, note, sometimes with the appearance of being hand written, attached to the letter which draws the reader’s attention to a specific point. This simulates a personal note from the writer, or from someone who thinks the reader would be interested in the package. Some examples of lede notes include:
“Saw this and thought it would be perfect for getting more clients to [company name]”
“Don’t forget to turn to page 5 and check out the incredible $600 savings on your next cruise”
This is what the copywriting is all about, making a strong offer to the customer. Everything that is written and included in your copywriting is there to support the offer and increase the chance of your ideal customer accepting the offer.
This is the number of people who open your email compared to the total number of people who received the email.
This is a method for a reader or prospect to receive more information in exchange for their email address or contact details. By “opting-in” they are agreeing to receive either specific piece of information such as a special report, or an ongoing newsletter subscription, or even both. When using an opt-in make sure your subscribers are clear about what they will be receiving.
Postscript or P.S
The post script is often used at the end of an email, sales page or sales letter. The reason it is used is because it is a method of catching the reader’s attention and highlighting a specific point. If your reader scrolls all the way to the end of your promotion just to find out the price, the P.S can be a trigger to highlight a benefit that may then make them dive into the body copy and read more about the product.
I once received an email from a Fast copy Friday reader who said:
“What’s the point of the P.S? I don’t know why you use it, but I always read it.”
That’s the point – to keep your audience reading 🙂
Problem or Pain
The problem or pain of your customer relates to the challenge they are facing that you can help them with. Usually there is one major pain point, with many related pains as a result of this.
A chiropractor’s customer may have the main problem of back pain, but that may then have related problems such as lack of sleep, low energy, irritability. All of these pains and problems should be identified in your copy so that your customer realises just how powerful your solution is. You’re not just solving back pain, you’re giving them a new lease of life!
Following on from the pain or problem, the promise is what you claim your product or service will do for the customer. Whether it makes your customer’s job easier, attracts more clients to a business, helps someone lose weight, your promise should be a big promise, and something desirable by your ideal client.
No promise is really worth anything without proof. Remember how we talked about the importance of credibility? Well one way to build credibility is to offer overwhelming proof that your promise can be believed. This may be in the form of previous testimonials from customers, photos of before and after results, results completed by performance studies.
One thing to remember in copywriting is that you can never have enough proof.
We’ve already mentioned psychographics as being the statistical data which defines your ideal customer, but there are also psychographics which relate to the interests, preferences and characteristics of your customer’s personality.
This may include their values, their ambitions, dreams, fears and emotional triggers. Sometimes when you can’t find a link through the demographics, you can find a common thread throughout the psychographics. One client I worked with worked with businesses from a variety of backgrounds, but all were run by owners with very strong creative ambitions.
Knowing this is an important part of creating a customer profile that you can use in your copywriting.
Related to the guarantee, risk-reversal is where the company takes on the risk of the customer buying the product by promising to refund the money, or even offer additional bonuses if the customer doesn’t enjoy the product.
Similar to a landing page, a sales page doesn’t have to be a solo page on its own. It can be part of a website, but it has the same characteristics of only allowing the reader to either buy or leave the page, and it needs to have all the details a customer needs to know if they want to buy or not.
Scarcity is used in copywriting to develop a sense of urgency in a customer. Scarcity means that the offer will not be available to everyone indefinitely. It means that at some point, the offer will no longer be available and as a result it encourages your reader to sharpen their focus on making a decision as to whether the product or service is what they want.
Examples of scarcity include limited product numbers, limited coaching spaces, limited spaces on a webinar or teleseminar, limited time for the offer being available.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is the practice of making a website more likely to be found within search engines when potential customers are using keywords to search for a particular service or product.
Because search engines love content, SEO copywriting is a skill for optimising website content so that it is more likely to be found in search engines. By carefully writing content that match the keywords your reader is looking for you can increase targeted traffic to your site.
A special report is a valuable information product about a specific issue that is informative and helpful to the reader. For businesses, special reports can be used to encourage potential customers to sign up to your newsletter in exchange for accessing the information. A special report should deliver real value to the customer rather than being purely promotional.
A squeeze page is a similar to a landing page and sales page with its minimal distractions, but instead of asking for a sale, it will be asking for customer email addresses or contact details.
Subheadings are used to break up your body copy. They are a larger font size to the body copy and should be written in a way that encourages your prospects to read the next section. You can also craft them in a way that means even someone just scanning the subheadings, has a good idea about the content of the copy.
A swipe file is a brilliant source of inspiration and a real time-saver. Every copywriter or business owner writing her own copy should be building one.
Your swipe file is a file that you keep any promotions, sales pages, website copy that you find and like. Building up a body of other promotions is a great way to look for ideas when you come to write your own sales copy. Study well known pieces that have generated strong results and use it as inspiration for your own copy. Of course you should never plagiarise, but when it comes to writing copy, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
A tag line is a short phrase that sums up a product, brand or service. Strong tag lines can be as simple as explaining WHAT you do and WHO it is for. E.g. Web design for dentists.
You can think of your target market as the collective of your customer profiles. Take all your ideal customers, put them together and you have your target market. So this could be vets in Chicago with revenues of more than $500,000, or music students aged 16-25 trying to break into the music industry.
It’s like a gang of the people you most want to help.
Testimonials are an endorsement of your product or service by someone else. This is usually from previous clients and customers, and they may be in the form of videos, or a written testimonial or even a case study.
Testimonials are a critical way to build credibility and proof.
In your copy, the close is crunch time. It’s where you move towards the call to action and outlining the price of your offer or product.
Tracking is the ability to measure the performance of a piece of copywriting. You may include specific purchase codes, or landing pages so that you know how many people purchased from a particular promotion.
The upsell is a technique that occurs after a customer has purchased, or is about to purchase. It encourages them to think about a complimentary purchase or another offer you feel they would be interested in.
If someone takes your set of hand crafted wine glasses, maybe they’d like to also buy the matching tumblers. Or if a customer signs up to a coaching package, they may be interested in additional services – sometimes offered at a one-off rate if they purchase there and then.
Urgency is the act of encouraging the reader to take action now, rather than wait. Even if that action is to not buy, it’s important for the reader to be able to make an easy decision as to whether they should take you up on your offer or not. Urgency is essential as human beings tend to do very little unless there are deadlines. A deadline, or elements of scarcity means your reader has to focus and concentrate and make a decision.
USP – Unique Selling Proposition
Your unique selling proposition is what sets you apart. It’s what makes you different and is a reason customers want to go to you rather than a competitor. If you’ve been struggling with the definition of your unique selling proposition, perhaps you might want to read why I think the USP is dead and what is replacing it.
Very similar to a special report, the white paper is a guide or report, written by an authority on the subject that educates the reader on an issue, or helps them overcome a problem, or make a decision.