Jessica Malnik

Conversion Copywriting: Principles, Formulas & Real-Life Examples You Need to Know For More Successful CTAs

Converting visitors on your website is about way more than a well-designed landing page or nicely placed popup.

For your calls-to-action to be really successful, they have to persuade. To entice. To compel.

How?

Conversion copywriting.

Sure, crafting compelling copy isn’t easy. But with the correct principles under your belt, you can remove the guesswork and start creating those elusive campaigns that showcase your value and have people scrambling to take action.

So in this post, we go into conversion copywriting. We cover the nine fundamental principles you need to know as well as actionable copywriting formulas to use, proven real-life examples, and even the best books for further reading 😎

Let’s get our copy on 👇

What is conversion copywriting?

Conversion copywriting is all about writing copy with a specific conversion goal in mind. This type of copywriting hones in on a single action and harnesses familiar words, phrases, and value propositions to convince readers to take that action—through landing pages, product descriptions, ads, and other calls-to-action (CTAs).

It’s helpful to think of conversion copywriting as the powerhouse of persuasion. It marries psychological formulas with creative whimsy to draw attention to the desired action a reader should take, such as:

  • Downloading a free ebook from your opt-in form  
  • Adding a product to your checkout 
  • Signing up for your SaaS product
  • Booking a consultation call

Basically, any kind of action a visitor can take on your website, or other marketing materials.

Why is copywriting crucial for conversions?

Often in marketing, we hear terms like, “A picture speaks a thousand words” or “The proof is in the pudding.”

But really, it’s not a high-quality photo that will sell software. And while testimonials might be helpful, it’s how the information is presented that causes a reader to pause and read further.

Realistically:

The words used in marketing campaigns provide the clarity necessary for consumers to pull the trigger on purchasing decisions both large and small. It’s copywriting that gives context and reasoning—and drills home the singular action a company wants readers to take.

Not only does solid copywriting generate trust and even drive engagement among your target audience, but it provides readers with a roadmap for what to do next.

Put another way: copywriting isn’t a part of conversions—copywriting is conversions.

9 conversion copywriting principles to apply to your CTAs

With a better understanding of conversion copywriting under your belt, it’s time to become familiar with the principles that factor into writing compelling copy. As previously stated, conversion copywriting is a science. And like all scientific undertakings, conversion copywriting thrives when proven formulas are applied.

If you’ve found yourself scratching your head and wondering why your copy hasn’t converted, you’ll want to become familiar with these nine principles and six time-tested frameworks.

1. Start with the end goal

One of the most common reasons why copywriting fails to convert is a lack of focus. That’s a significant problem—especially in conversion copywriting, in which the entire goal is to hone in on one focus.

To maximize conversion rates, you’ll need to eliminate any distractions that can take away from your singular focus.

So, always start with your end goal top of mind. Before you type a single word, ask yourself:

  • What do I want this copy to achieve?
  • What action do I want the reader to take?

Is it to sign up for your newsletter? To schedule a demo? Whatever it is, the point should be crystal clear. 

2. Get clear on who you’re talking to

If you try to write for everyone, you’ll end up converting no one.

Who is your ideal customer? What are their goals and pain points? What do they care about?

Answering questions like these help you get clear on who exactly you’re trying to appeal to—making your copy more engaging and specific. For this, it’s a good idea to begin by creating documented customer personas.

Consider the essential facts, such as demographic and background:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Occupation 
  • Interests or hobbies

Scrape this data from whichever source you have access to, whether it’s a full-fledged persona document or answers from recent surveys and search term analytics. For why this data matters, let’s move on to the next principle.

3. Measure their way of speaking

Too many persona documents get filed away without ever being seen again. So once you have a customer persona, what do you do with it?

Use it to influence how you construct copy, your word choice, and how copy is delivered. This data should inform the voice of the customer (VOC), which in turn should inform your voice.

Social listening is a crucial component of conversion copywriting that will help you identify your target VOC. Use social media and public forums for customer complaints and conversations. Listen in on sales calls to learn the vocabulary and pain points.

By measuring your target audience’s way of speaking, you can begin to understand the language they like to use and the language they respond to. This will allow you to construct copy that converts.

After all, excellent conversion copywriting is all about creating personalized offers for your ideal customer. And the more specific you can be, the better.

4. Understand their stage of awareness

The entire purpose of conversion copywriting is to deliver the right message at the right time. But the "right time" can vary depending on the customer’s stage of awareness.

These are:

  1. Completely unaware. The reader doesn’t realize they have a problem yet.
  2. Problem aware. The reader acknowledges a problem but doesn’t have a solution.
  3. Solution aware. The reader isn’t aware of your brand but recognizes that solutions exist.
  4. Solution & product aware. The reader knows they have a problem and is aware that your brand may be a solution.

Depending on a customer’s stage of awareness, your messaging must change accordingly. This is where targeted messages come in.

After all:

How can you convince a reader to purchase if they aren’t even aware of the problem?

You must tailor your CTAs to a reader’s level of awareness for the message to connect.

AWeber does this well with targeted messages on their blog.

For example, this targeted CTA for their email statistics reports shows about once a reader is halfway down the page of this beginner-friendly guide to creating an email course:

AWeber blog post hook

The report being offered is a natural hook to get a reader to dive deeper into this topic.

SEE MORE: How AWeber Turned Its Blog into A Continuous Source of High-Quality Leads

PRO TIP:

You can use ConvertFlow's advanced targeting conditions to create calls-to-action that show different messages and offers to your website visitors. This way, you can always stay relevant and specific with your copywriting:

ConvertFlow targeting conditions

Learn more about targeting in ConvertFlow

5. Speak directly to their pain points

With an end goal, audience persona, and stage of awareness in mind, you must speak directly to their goals and pain points. These pain points will outline your value proposition: What exactly you’re offering and why it matters to your reader.

Depending on your reader’s level of awareness, acknowledging pain points can be as simple as: "You know of this problem, so here’s a solution."

But other times, the reader is totally unaware of a problem or desire. In this case, you need to return to your demographics and social listening to define the value proposition for your solution clearly.

Remember that people purchase from you when they feel understood, not when they understand you. So, utilize your understanding of your target audience to make them feel heard.

For example, Arrows’ tagline does a great job of speaking to their ideal customer’s pain points clearly and concisely:

Arrows home page copy

Notice how this is then followed up with a clear description of what Arrows' product does—with a compelling testimonial to back it up even further. It's all addressing a very specific pain point.

6. Never start from scratch

If the above principles weren’t enough to drill this point home, never start from scratch when writing conversion-based copy.

The purpose of the above research wasn’t just to generate a basic idea of what to say. It was to create a cheat sheet of the key aspects you need to deliver in your messaging.

The above factors dictate the subject of your message and how to deliver it—even your social listening should dictate the language you use.

When you open a fresh document to begin writing, always factor in your research first. It will save you time, energy, and heartache over non-converting copy.

PRO TIP:

Try to get feedback on your copy and value props from ideal customers—this will help to ensure you're hitting the right point points and addressing the right problems. For high-touch areas of your site (e.g. home pages, product pages, etc.), you can even try a message testing service like Wynter.com.

The company's home page is a great conversion copywriting example in itself:

Wynter home page

7. Create some FOMO

FOMO marketing can be incredibly powerful for conversions. So it's definitely a principle to consider adding to your copywriting.

Basically, you create a "fear of missing out" by suggesting there's a chance that what you're offering isn't going to be around much longer.

Two big ways to do this:

  1. Urgency. Putting a time limit or deadline on an offer. (E.g. “Offer ends in five minutes 37 seconds”).
  2. Scarcity. Having a limited number of units or offers available. (E.g. “Only three left in stock”).

See how Nectar Sleep has a countdown timer running down to the end of its Memorial Day sale:

Nectar Sleep countdown example

This is a great example of urgency in action.

But the key is that it's believable. Overused or farfetched FOMO tactics can actually be a real turn off for consumers, so make sure to use sparingly and genuinely.

8. Make use of social proof

It doesn't matter how good your copywriting is, it'll never be as persuasive as impartial customer feedback.

You should be collecting things like:

  • Product reviews
  • App ratings
  • G2, Capterra, etc. reviews (for SaaS)
  • Positive social media posts

Basically anything that showcases how people have used (and hopefully enjoyed) your product, service, app, ebook, newsletter—or whatever it is you're "selling" in your copy.

Basecamp does a great job with social proof on its home page by showcasing positive reviews and also how many people are signing up for the product:

Basecamp home page social proof

The page also features a ton of more detailed, high-profile reviews further down:

Basecamp reviews

There's even a standalone "Before & after" page dedicated solely to featuring a plethora of positive customer reviews.

9. Handle common objections

Every product or service has a list of common reasons people get put off by. The key is to address and overcome these objections within your copywriting up front.

This doesn't have to be anything overly elaborate, either.

It could be as simple as adding "No credit card needed" under your free trial CTA button. Or "We'll never send SPAM" if it's a signup for your newsletter.

However:

You might also want to consider a fully fledged FAQ section to handle the common questions visitors have in their heads before taking that final conversion step. Like this one from AWeber:

AWeber FAQ section

Either way, this all comes back to our earlier point about knowing your target customer. This helps you understand the common objections they tend to have, and then address them in your copywriting.

Copywriting frameworks to use

In conversion copywriting, your research will become a cheat sheet for copy that sells. But if you’re having trouble organizing that information in a clear, concise way, you might want to look into copywriting formulas.

Consider these six time-tested acronym frameworks for effective copy.

1. AIDA

One of the most commonly used frameworks for marketing, AIDA consists of:

  • Attention. Grab the reader’s eye with copy that’s dramatic.
  • Interest. Provide fresh or interesting information to keep them engaged.
  • Desire. Target their emotional or psychological reasoning.
  • Action. Ask them to take your desired action.

Best for: General use.

2. AIDCA

AIDCA is a variation of the above framework, but with a slight twist:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Conviction
  • Action

The ‘C’ for conviction should happen right before you ask for the desired action. Testimonials, statistics, endorsements, or money-back guarantees are examples of copy used to sway skeptical readers and provide the value proposition.

Best for: General use, when you have some kind of social proof to back your copy up.

3. PAS

PAS is a reliable framework that can be applied to brief banner copy or long-form landing pages alike. Unlike AIDA/AIDCA, which appeals on emotional and psychological levels, PAS focuses on pain points:

  • Problem. Present the problem your reader is facing.
  • Agitation. Embellish on that problem using pains farmed from social listening.
  • Solution. Offer your solution to the problem.

Best for: Addressing a specific problem/pain point.

4. ACCA

If you’re well-aware of your target audience and understand that many are in the "Completely unaware" stage, the ACCA framework can help position your product to readers in a way that drills the message home:

  • Awareness. Draw awareness to the problem.
  • Comprehension. Explain the ramifications of the problem in greater detail.
  • Conviction. Generate a willingness to take action by providing facts, social proof, etc.
  • Action. Provide the step to take to solve the problem or learn more.

Best for: Addressing visitors who are in the "unaware" stages of awareness.

5. QUEST

Sometimes, your audience wants to feel as though your message is speaking directly to them. QUEST offers a more personalized approach to tempt readers to convert:

  • Qualify. Explain whom this product or solution is meant for.
  • Understand. Relate to what this person is going through.
  • Educate. Describe the alternate solution meant for people like them.
  • Stimulate. Get them excited with features, demos, or testimonials.
  • Transition. Make them a customer by providing an action to take.

Best for: Making a specific visitor segment or persona feel understood.

6. Hero’s Journey

Lastly, the Hero’s Journey is a character-focused framework that performs well on lead generation pages. This method personifies your customer’s pain points and walks readers through a story that ultimately highlights your product.

It’s as if your audience persona has come to life:

  • Introduce the hero of the story. You can call it anything that fits your product, like “Mark the Aggravated Accountant” for financial software or “Sleepy Stacy” for a sleep aid.
  • Tell the hero’s story. This is essentially you outlining the same pain points your demographic is experiencing.
  • Introduce the solution that saved the hero. This is your chance to present your product or service as the solution that fixed the star’s problem and outline the value of your company.

Best for: Using the power of story within your copywriting.

Feeling inspired by these principles? Let’s see what they look like in practice with some real-world examples.

Conversion copywriting examples

As writers, we absorb a lot of what we read. So, if you’re struggling to create copy that converts, it’s wise to immerse yourself in effective conversion copywriting examples.

The frameworks above can be applied to any piece of marketing 'real estate'—from a few lines on a popup, to a full scale landing page.

Here are a couple of longer-form examples. We look at two strong landing pages that embody the general principles of conversion copywriting and do so in a fresh, easy-to-follow manner.

Editor's note: We've also got a post on popup design, which offers some great advice on applying these conversion principles to shorter-form CTAs 😎

Crewfire

Crewfire’s home page is a fantastic example of the AIDCA framework in action.

First, it grabs the reader’s attention with an enticing headline. Then, the writer drives interest in the product’s capabilities, such as enhanced engagement and shares:

Conversion copywriting examples: Crewfire home page hero

A convenient button is available for anyone who wants to take action right away (watch a demo).

But, the page continues with copy that builds desire by targeting the reader’s emotional or psychological reasoning:

Crewfire building desire

Next, the writer moves along to conviction with the “Three Keys to Success” section. This copy cites statistics to support the overall message:

Crewfire building conviction

There’s also a nice social proof logo section to drive that conviction even deeper:

Crewfire social proof

The writer then moves things along nicely by building up Crewfire as the solution:

Crewfire solution

From here, the action becomes more apparent with a big call-to-action at the end:

Crewfire main call-to-action

The page is also peppered with CTA buttons, so a reader can convert at any point along the page.

You can take a look at the current Crewfire home page here, although the company may obviously change this up at any point. The one we analyzed in this post is in full here.

SavvyCal

Sometimes, bold and punchy copy is all you need.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more competitive industry than scheduling software. SavvyCal is a newer product in this space.

This landing page demonstrates confidence in their product and addresses a common friction point—switching costs:

Conversion copywriting examples: SavvyCal

The copy showcases supreme confidence in the product. SavvyCal are saying they're so certain their product is better that they'll literally buy out your annual subscription from another leading scheduler.

Then, they further drive this point home with a testimonial from a customer who switched from Calendly to SavvyCal.

It's a great example of understanding your customer.

SavvyCal knows that Calendly has a big grip on the market from being an early player in the space, and a lot of potential users probably see switching tools as more hassle than it's worth when they've already got an annual subscription. So, SavvyCal came up with this irresistible offer to overcome the problem.

You can see the full SavvyCal vs. Calendly page here.

12 conversion copywriting books to read

Looking for more helpful advice on conversion copywriting? Here’s a dozen of the best copywriting books to read.

Final thoughts 

Conversion copywriting is an aspect of marketing that’s certainly easier said than done. But with the appropriate research and the right principles leading the way, you’re more likely to create copy that converts as opposed to copy that makes you cringe.

Want to quickly build CTAs and landing pages to use your copy on? Start a free trial to see how ConvertFlow makes it easy to build personalized offers and targeted messages for your ideal customers at scale.

About the author

Jessica Malnik

Contributor, ConvertFlow
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Jessica is a copywriter and content strategist with over 10 years' experience in SaaS marketing. Her work has appeared on industry-leading websites like Social Media Examiner, SEMRush, CMX, The Next Web, Databox, Help Scout, Convince & Convert, and more. When she's not writing something epic, you'll usually find her watching Master Chef or schooling people on 90s pop culture trivia.