Web Copy That Sells

The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy

 Web Copy That Sells

Author: Maria Veloso
Pub Date: February 2013
Print Edition: $21.95
Print ISBN: 9780814432518
Page Count: 304
Format: Paper or Softback
Edition: Third Edition
e-Book ISBN: 9780814432525

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The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Very few stories convey the profound truth of his statement better than this story of Chinese Taoist origin:

There was a farmer who lived in a poor country village. He was considered quite -well--to--do because he owned a horse which he used for plowing and for transportation. One day his horse ran away. All his neighbors exclaimed how terrible this was, but the farmer simply said, “Maybe, maybe not.”

A few days later the horse returned and brought two wild horses with it. The neighbors all rejoiced and told the farmer how fortunate he was, but the farmer just said, “Maybe, maybe not.”

The next day the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses; the horse threw him and as a result, his son broke his leg. The neighbors offered their sympathy and told the farmer what a terrible turn of events he had encountered, but the farmer said once again, “Maybe, maybe not.”

The next week draft officers came to the village to take all the -able--bodied young men for the army. They rejected the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. When the neighbors told him how lucky he was, the farmer replied, “Maybe, maybe not.”

This story underscores what Socrates must have meant when he penned the words “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Things of this world are in such a constant state of flux, that nothing remains the same for very long. Just when you think something is true, it ceases to be -true—-like Google’s search algorithms. Therefore, true wisdom might be defined as freeing one’s mind to be a blank canvas upon which the ebb and flow of the universe can paint a changing landscape.

Such is the outlook we must adopt when it comes to the rapidly changing world of the Internet and -e--commerce. Instead of clinging to benchmark standards, methods, and techniques that have consistently shown superior results during the early days of the web, “best practice” must necessarily become better as improvements are discovered. Although we’ve all learned a few things since the dawn of the Internet, if we were to take the stance that we know a thing or two about Internet marketing or web copywriting, we may run the risk of “knowing just enough to be dangerous.”

The operative word for our business behavior is therefore . . . nimble. Just as the Internet is nimble and -ever--changing, so must the art of web copywriting be.

The first edition of this book (2004) presented web copywriting principles that catered to the prevailing business climate at a time when Yahoo! reigned supreme as the brightest star among web directories, Google was still in its infancy, and Facebook and Twitter had not made their entrance yet. By the time the second edition was released in 2009, Google had become a verb in our vocabulary (due to the popularity and dominance of the eponymous search engine), and the YouTube revolution had come to dominate the hearts and minds of Internet surfers. I introduced advanced online communications in that second edition that were tailored to the -then--emerging age of Web 2.0. Within a few short years thereafter, the Internet had metamorphosed into the -next--generation version of itself and has yet again altered the way we communicate to our prospects, customers, and the general public online.

It is this next generation of the Internet (Web 3.0, if you will) that the third edition of Web Copy That Sells addresses. In order to stay a step ahead of the trends that dominate the web, you must also change your online communications at the speed of change, while still embracing fundamental principles that are the undercurrent of all marketing and copywriting.

There is another reason why the aforementioned tale of the farmer is one of my favorite stories of all time. It illustrates one of the psychological devices that I present in this book, called reframing (see Chapter 5, “Using Psychology to Motivate Prospects to Become Purchasers”). Reframing, simply put, suggests that the meaning of any event depends upon the “frame” in which we perceive it. When we change the frame, we change the meaning. When the farmer gains two wild horses, for example, that event might be perceived as a good thing until it is seen in the context of the farmer’s son’s broken leg. The broken leg appears to be an unfortunate event in the context of peaceful village life, but in the context of the draft, it suddenly becomes fortunate. Reframing is one of the most powerful web copywriting devices, which I discuss in greater length in this third edition.

The Trifecta -Neuro--Affective Principle™ (Chapter 6) is another powerful device that is designed to change your prospects’ minds in favor of your product or service and accelerates their decision to buy what you’re selling. This device, which can be utilized in any selling situation either on or off the web, has exceedingly more applications within the current Internet trends. This comes at such an opportune time because the current landscape of the web tends to favor short, succinct, digestible bites of copy, for which I coined the term cyber bite. Cyber bites have the power not only to create a -sales---advancing impact on people but also potentially to become memes (a term coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, derived from the words mime and mimic, representing cultural ideas that are passed from one individual to another in a manner analogous to the propagation of biological genes) that get transmitted verbally and virally, thereby creating significant buzz for any product or service.

The expanded material in the third edition makes this book useful not just for online marketers and copywriters but for anyone who sells -anything—-either on or off the web.

Web copy refers to the words on a website, in an e‑mail, or in other online marketing communications that cause prospects to do what you want them to -do—-pick up the phone, register, subscribe, or buy your product or service.

The World Wide Web is forging ahead, and the age of Web 3.0 is already upon us, yet I find that most people who do business on the Internet are still in the dark as far as selling on the web is concerned. The fact is, most companies, business enterprises, and entrepreneurs who are selling products and services on the Internet are still conducting marketing and sales operations online the way they do business in the -brick---and---mortar world. They’re still taking marketing principles that work well in the offline world and trying to force them to work on the web. And they still don’t realize that many principles that are effective in print, on the radio, on billboards, in direct mail, and via other types of offline advertising simply do not translate well on the web. In fact, they can even kill sales.

Most of all, they still make the common mistake that most website owners, Internet entrepreneurs, and online companies make: They drive traffic to their website before making sure they have web copy that sells.

Words are the true currency of the web. The single most important ingredient in a commercial website is web copy. Words make the sale, and no amount of cool graphics, interactive bells and whistles, -cutting---edge design, or sophisticated -e---commerce infrastructure could ever compare to the selling ability of compelling web copy.

Because selling on the web is text -driven, nothing happens until someone writes the words that get people to click, sign up, read, register, order, subscribe, or buy whatever you’re selling. According to a -four--year study, conducted by Stanford University and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and published in 2000, of the habits of Internet news readers on normally scrolling screens, “the first thing people look at on a webpage tends to be text.” The Poynter Institute’s EyeTrack ’07 study conducted in July 2007, which had 600 participants from 18 to 60 years old, corroborates the same.

I’ve sold everything from books to software to -stock---picking services, franchises, -self--improvement programs, career development products, handcrafted gifts and art pieces, consumable products, membership clubs, weight loss products, -tax---saving programs, seminars, consulting services, and more on the web, and in the process I’ve learned that both the -five--step blueprint and the other principles and devices revealed in this book can help any website owner take a casual website visitor and turn that surfer into a prospect and, subsequently, into a -customer—-all through the sheer power of words.

Jakob Nielsen, one of the top usability engineers for the web and author of Designing Web Usability (Peachpit Press, 1999) and other books, wrote:

Words are usually the main moneymakers on a website. Better writing is probably the single most important improvement you can make to your site.

For this reason, if you have a website (or plan to create one) that sells a product or service, you need to hire a web -copywriter—-or learn the craft of web copywriting yourself. This brings me to the reason for this book. When I wrote the first edition in 2004, I was motivated by the fact that every time I surfed the Internet I came across countless websites that were so poorly written that I -couldn’t imagine them generating a single sale. Some of those websites offered excellent products and services, but they utilized weak web copy that --didn’t do justice to the products and services. Several years have passed since the publication of the first and second editions, and I’m dumbfounded that most companies and individuals doing business on the web still -haven’t discovered how to use the power of words to sell effectively via their websites. It’s a shame, because the web provides an incredible channel for marketing virtually anything to anybody in any part of the world.

Adding to the challenge facing website owners and Internet entrepreneurs is the fact that there is a scarcity of web copywriting specialists equipped to take on the unique challenge of web communication and online selling. This situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future because even with the increasing numbers of professional writers transitioning into web copywriting, the numbers of -e---commerce websites that need professional web copywriting are increasing at an even faster pace. Consequently, even if you’re a website owner, Internet entrepreneur, or online company that could find good web copywriters and could afford to pay their standard rates of $125 to $235 per -hour—-or $3,000 to $12,000 or more for a sales -page—-chances are that the good ones would be too busy to take on your project.

My -solution—-and my reason for writing this -book—-is to teach you the principles of web copywriting so you can write web copy yourself. Whether you are a businessperson writing your own copy or a writer entering the business or transitioning from other kinds of advertising copywriting, my goal is to teach you how to take your writing skills and apply them to web writing. Writing web copy that converts prospects into customers is a discipline all its own. It’s a highly specialized genre of writing that combines marketing wherewithal with a deep understanding of the Internet’s unique culture, mindset, psychology, and language.

Additionally, this revised edition redefines web copy in the context of the continually evolving commercial landscape of the Internet and establishes updated rules for communicating successfully in the age of Web -3.0—-the third generation of -web--based communities and applications, including but not limited to the following forms of online communications:


Video (such as YouTube, DailyMotion, and Vimeo)

Social networks (such as Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn)

Blogs (including microblogging services such as Twitter)

Viral communications (including social news websites, such as Digg, and social bookmarking sites, such as StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Delicious)

Furthermore, this new edition includes copywriting principles not only for -direct---response types of websites but also for corporations, advertising agencies, -catalog---style businesses, and newbies who want to grow their online businesses with killer web copy. With Internet advertising revenues exceeding $31.7 billion in 2011, a 22 percent increase over 2010 (source: Internet Advertising Bureau), due emphasis has also been given to strategies for writing -short--form ads.

What most online businesspeople and some professional copywriters don’t realize is that web copywriting is distinctly different from any other kind of advertising copywriting and offline marketing communications. It is also quite different from writing content for the web. Of course, it also bears some similarities to all of these. Additionally, web copy encompasses more than just words in cyberspace. It’s a way of communicating on the web that takes into account the -ever--changing lifestyles and preferences of the Internet buying population. Sometimes that includes the use of graphic depictions of words to better communicate ideas and change people’s minds in favor of your product or service (see Chapter 6). The trends that are in a constant state of flux necessitate continuing education on how people are willing to consume marketing messages, as will be shown in the discussion of the YouTube revolution in Chapter 9.

In this third edition, it is also my objective to provide the newest strategies, techniques, devices, and tools for writing copy in a market that has become immune and unresponsive to the marketing strategies that were effective three or more years ago. Most of the general web copywriting rules that I presented in the first and second editions have remained the same, but the delivery and execution have changed with the times.

Who needs this book? You do, if you are

An Internet marketer, entrepreneur, or website owner who sells (or plans to sell) a product or service online via your own -e--commerce website

A marketing professional who is in charge of your company’s online sales operations (an advertising, marketing, or brand manager)

An advertising professional who plans, approves, or executes Internet marketing campaigns or writes advertising copy on behalf of clients

A writer who is tired of being underpaid and barely earning a -living—-and who wants to transition to the lucrative specialty of web copywriting

A webmaster who wants to learn the skill of web copywriting in order to expand the services you provide your clients

An aspiring online entrepreneur who is seeking the most -cost--efficient way to start a successful online business using a simple web copywriting -formula

Someone with -moderate--to---good writing skills who wants to become a highly paid professional writer in one of the hottest, most -in--demand fields in today’s marketplace

Whether or not you aspire to become a professional web copywriter, you can apply the principles presented in this book to any website, incorporate them into your marketing communications -(e‑mail, online advertising, newsletters, online video, audio, etc.), and generate measurably increased sales and profits.

Although the web copywriting principles I present herein are largely derived from -direct---response types of web copy, they can be adapted to virtually all copywriting applications on the web. Whether your goal is to write web copy for branding purposes or to generate leads, build a mailing list, generate more sales, obtain repeat customers, ensure customer satisfaction, or improve customer retention, you will benefit from the principles revealed in this book because they will sharpen the edges of your marketing messages, making them more effective.

I’ve been writing advertising copy since 1977 and specializing in web copywriting since 1996, and this gives me a broader perspective of the craft than most people have. Yet I “stand on the shoulders of giants,” learning from those who came before -me—-masters of influence like Robert Cialdini and marketing legends like Rosser Reeves, Victor Schwab, Robert Collier, and Eugene -Schwartz—-whose powerful concepts I’ve -battle---tested and -fine--tuned for the web.


When I encountered the World Wide Web in 1996, I already had 19 years of copywriting experience under my belt, but I soon discovered that writing copy for the web was a highly specialized craft. There was a multitude of things to -learn—-and unlearn. It’s my goal to teach you the things I’ve learned and help you avoid some of the errors I made.

As you go through the book, here are some of the lessons and tools you’ll find:

Chapter 1 introduces you to the three fundamental rules for writing web copy that appeals to the unique predisposition of the Internet population and reveals a technique that will give you the mindset of a killer web copywriter in five hours or less.

Chapter 2 discusses the five simple questions (about your product or service) that, when answered, make your web copy practically write itself.

Chapter 3 reveals the formula for measuring the selling quotient of your copy, showing you how to evaluate your -copy’s selling ability and how to get an immediate boost in your response rate.

In Chapter 4 you’ll discover the amazing power of -e‑mail marketing, how to write -attention---grabbing -e---mail copy, and new ways of rising above the overcrowded -e‑mail jungle.

The most powerful psychological principles underlying web copy that sells are explored in Chapter 5, which offers devices, strategies, tactics, and tips that can make any website sizzle with sales activity.

Chapter 6 reveals the Trifecta -Neuro--Affective Principle, which features the three principal triggers that you need to employ to change your prospects’ minds in favor of your product or service and to accelerate their decision to buy.

The most important involvement devices that dramatically increase the “stickiness” of your -website—-and make website visitors more likely to buy what you’re -selling—-are discussed in Chapter 7.

In Chapter 8, I show you how to write compelling online ads, newsletters (or -e--zines), autoresponder messages, and other marketing communications that can propel your online business to uncharted heights.

Chapter 9 provides the essential guidelines for creating short online videos that get high Google rankings and generate sales; crafting effective marketing messages and gaining visibility, sales, and even fame via the social dynamics of Web 3.0; and bridging online marketing with the underutilized (but powerful) offline advertising channel that most marketers on the web often ignore.

After you’ve learned the craft of web copywriting, Chapter 10 reveals the -four---step foolproof secret to success in all your copywriting endeavors and introduces “the perfect customer life cycle,” which, when mastered alongside the web copywriting principles in this book, radically transforms your online business’s sales and profits.

Finally, Chapter 11 shows how you can parlay the web copywriting knowledge you’ll learn from this book into a lucrative career, including how to find an unlimited number of web copywriting clients, an irresistible prospecting e‑mail you can use to persuade clients to hire you; and how to license your intellectual property (your web copy) and structure -joint--venture deals with online enterprises to generate a -six--figure income.

You simply can’t model successful websites and expect to succeed on the web. You need to model the process through which the success is attained, not the outcome of that process. For this reason, we examine the steps, the psychology, and the philosophies that are considered in writing successful web copy rather than modeling the web copy itself and trying to adapt it where it isn’t appropriate. Instead of simply presenting blueprints or power words and phrases, I’ll demonstrate how to acquire the mindset with which to view websites, e‑mail, and all other marketing communications so that you, too, can write web copy that sells.

In my experience, selling on the web is quite different from selling via any other marketing channels in the -brick--and--mortar world. Online selling is about achieving a click and a sale as swiftly and efficiently as possible. In order to illustrate how this is accomplished, I use examples throughout the book consisting of web copy pieces I’ve written for clients as well as websites that I manage or own. I invite you to regard these in the context of the lessons being presented in this book, regardless of your interest in the products being sold.

Very few people truly understand the complexities of communicating on the Internet. However, by the time you finish reading this book, you’ll know more about web copywriting than 99 percent of the population. More important, you will be able to parlay that specialized knowledge into a -six--figure income in the field of web copywriting or dramatically increase the sales of your website.

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