Editing & Punching Up Your Copy by Jibran Yousuf

Editing & Punching Up Your Sales Copy

In this article, we will focus on editing & punching up the sales copy.

Before we dive deeper into messaging, I would like to mention that the following content is based upon my learning during the eleventh Week of Conversion Optimization, my mini degree course at CXL Institute, led by Peep Laja & the team.

Make your sales copy (whether data-driven or not) SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER by following a few simple, conversion-focused editing principles.

Momoko’s 7 Simple Rules of Effective Sales Copy Editing

Rule #1: Above all, be CLEAR. (Even explicit.)

“Clarity Trumps Persuasion”

“While marketers invest the majority of their time and budgets on complex areas deeper down in the funnel, research has found that most of the gain from optimizing a website occurs in clarifying the first seven seconds of users’ experience.” – MarketingExperiments.com


If you don’t say it, your reader won’t see it.
Your reader can’t read your mind. Put it on the page.
Tell your reader what they need to know.

Rule #2: Match The Reader’s Mindset.

A well-researched, message-matched headline will often outperform an un-researched “persuasive-trick” headline.

Handy Headline Trick

  1. Message-match with a question
  2. Answer with a specific unique value

Conversion Rate Optimization by Jibran Yousuf

Rule #3: BLOW Them Away With Value

How? Easy! Just make an exhaustive list of:

  1. Specific, happy outcomes
  2. Elimination of specific pain points

And then prove it, with hard data & rich testimonials.

Rule #4: Use quantifiable proof, if possible

“Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatsoever…. People recognize a certain license in selling talk as they do in poetry. A man may say, “Supreme in quality” without seeming like a liar, though one may know that other brands are equally as good … But just for that reason, general statements count for little. And a man inclined to superlatives must expect that his every statement will be taken with some caution.… But a man who makes a specific claim is either telling the truth or a LIE.
People don’t expect the advertiser to LIE.” – Claude C. Hopkins

Rule #5: Don’t just talk … Paint a picture!

Five “paintbrushes” you can use …

#1: Lift “word pictures” from customers.
#2: Replace general nouns with specific ones.
#3: Replace generic adjectives with vivid ones.
#4: Replace weak verbs with punchy ones.
#5: Call out your reader and their needs!

Rule #6: Show AND tell generously.

The classic fiction-writing rule of “show, don’t tell” is risky for sales copy, because it’s often implicit, not explicit.

Online sales copy cannot afford to be implicit (i.e. subtle) because people need to get your point to convert/act.

So show AND tell — i.e. use imagery, but call out what people should notice with annotations & added copy.

Rule #7: Cut anything that’s not doing real work.

… Is it reflecting/matching motivation?
… Is it conveying or clarifying value?
… Is it proving a claim?
… Is it addressing anxiety?
… Is it adding authentic specificity?



Follow these seven rules:

#1: Above all, be CLEAR. (Even explicit.)
#2: Match the reader’s mindset.
#3: BLOW them away with value.
#4: Use quantifiable proof
#5: Don’t just talk … Paint a picture!
#6: Show AND tell generously.
#7: Cut anything that’s not doing real work.

Try It Yourself

Apply the Seven Rules of Sales Copy Editing to a draft of your own page copy. You can try to do the following (per ~400 words of copy):

  1. Add 3-5 word pictures.
  2. Replace 3 dull adjectives with 3 vivid adjectives.
  3. Change 3 weak verbs with 3 punchy ones.
  4. Identify a claim you’ve made about your product, and brainstorm ways you can prove it (with testimonials, data, press quotes, etc).
  5. Do your best to cut your word count by 30-50% without losing any critical information. (This might not be possible, but try!)

Learn more about message hierarchies.


    Understanding Message Hierarchies by Jibran Yousuf

    Understanding Message Hierarchies

    In this article, we will sharpen our understanding of Message Hierarchies.

    Before we dive deeper into the product messaging, I would like to mention that the following content is based upon the learnings that I did during the tenth Week of Conversion Optimization, my mini degree course at CXL Institute, led by Peep Laja & the team.

    • Understand how the fundamentals of the story can greatly improve your sales page’s persuasive impact.
    • Construct a killer value proposition for your product with some strategically collected voice-of-customer data.
    • Use Google Spreadsheets to instantly transform dry survey response data into a complete messaging hierarchy for any sales page.

    Understanding Storytelling & Message Hierarchies

    Why is the story critical to selling? You may have probably come across several talks that really get into this, the power of storytelling, all that kind of stuff. And the reality is, like, the reason that story is critical to selling is that that’s how humans think.

    Human thoughts tend to arrange themselves in a story. So synchronizing your copy, to the visitor’s thought sequence, often requires a story-based framework. And when we say story-like, we’re really talking about the beginning, middle, and end. That’s just how we tell stories. That’s how we communicate. It’s just the way we roll.

    So, if we want to go back to what a classic story framework looks like, we are taking a time warp back to 12th grade English class. Where you see a narrative arc like this. Where we talk about starting with setting the context, setting the scene, right.  What we’re really talking about is laying out the setting or the context. Once you’ve laid out the setting of the context, the who, what, where, when, you can get into the full story narrative.

    Best Practices for Conversion Rate Optimization by Jibran Yousuf

    Where you start talking about rising action and intensity, things start happening, tension starts building, until you get to some kind of climax or central conflict in the story. Then there’s the falling action. There’s the resolution of the story and it ends, right. We’re all very, very familiar with this. And if you don’t necessarily think that humans think in a natural story-based framework, I want you to read the next six words and tell me what comes into mind for you when you read them.

    goodbye mission control, thanks for trying.

    Six words, it is one sentence. But when you read that sentence, you instantly get, almost an entire story from that. Which is, there was a journey out into space. Something went horribly wrong, and now the astronaut is just flying off into the middle of nowhere. Great story.

    But you can see, human brains just have a natural tendency to just fill in those gaps, we fill in that story. You know, if you put the right words, in the right order. So, if you apply that story framework to a sales page, what do you get? Well, you need to set the context, first, right? You need the setting. We look at setting down the, for who, what are you selling, and why, the value proposition right. Here is when message hierarchies become relevant.

    You want to get that down, early. The moment people enter your sort of, story framework. From there, you get your features and benefits. You get to start diving into how the solution relates to that setting. And you start to build some excitement around the solution that you’re offering. This promise that you’re offering is right. So, it’s not so much tension, you don’t want to think about it in terms of tension because we’re not making people go through conflict, right. In the conventional sense of story. But we are trying to build excitement and anticipation around achieving a goal, right.

    So, we get into that rising intensity of laying out features and benefits, how it works, proofs, that kind of thing. The climax is when you pitch the sale. When you actually make the offer and you are getting them to act, you are getting them to overcome their own sense of inner tension and saying, “Yes, I’m going to go” and I’m going to buy this right now,” right. So, you put out your call to action, you want to get them to act. You want to give them a payoff. Right?

    So, when we say the call to action, a lot of people say the call to action in marketing, it’s become almost a blanket term or a very vague term that doesn’t really mean anything anymore we just hear it, and it’s just part of the buzzwords that we hear in marketing But, really what we’re trying to do is like, give the payoff like, you’ve built the anticipation towards the acquisition of some awesome thing.

    Now, the call to action is where you make that gateway where they can say, “Oh, this is where I go, to actually” achieve all this, you know, to get the result” of what you’ve been telling me about. “And then, of course, you have incentives that you want to include, at that moment to help get them over the hurdle. You have the actual falling action which is them just filling out the form and going through the process of following through on their commitment to act. And then finally the resolution is your post-conversion user experience. That is again marketing experiments way, of sort of, framing your sales narrative in the terms of story.

    One way that I love, is just thinking about it like this; you’re setting and context is where you start with the why. If you can’t convince someone or if you don’t start with the why, why should I be listening to you? Why are you even talking to me? What is this about? You don’t set that context, you’ve lost them, right.

    So, you need to start with the why. Then you want to let them try. If you’ve intrigued them with the why, and the context makes sense to them, and the promise, the value proposition that you put out to them is relevant to them, then the natural thing they’re going to think is; Okay, all right, tell me more. Right? Gimme the gist, gimme more details of what you’re offering. Right? So, you’ve got to think in terms of why, and then try.

    Try all the content that you use to kind of, get them to understand the product, and understand how it achieves their goals for them. And then you end with the buy. Allow them to act. Give them the opportunity, the gateway, the portal, to be able to get the thing that you’ve just…

    The solution that you’ve just offered them. Right? So, it’s very simple.

    Why try, buy, and that’s really what you need to be thinking about in terms of the flow of the story when it comes to a sales narrative. I hope you now have a better understanding of message hierarchies. Read more about Editing & Punching Up Your Sales Copy.


      Crafting Effective Unique Value Propositions by Jibran Yousuf

      Crafting Effective Unique Value Proposition

      • What is the Value Proposition?
      • Why is it important?
      • Are they only critical to sales narrative online or they are important offline too?

      In this article, we will sharpen our understanding of what a Unique Value Proposition actually is.

      Before we dive deeper into the product messaging, I would like to mention that the following content is based upon the learning that I got during the ninth Week of Conversion Optimization, my mini degree course at CXL Institute, led by Peep Laja & the team.

      Understanding Value Proposition

      In every marketing textbook, you will find a discussion on understanding the value proposition yet people have a limited understanding of what it actually is and why it matters. In the last article, we discussed the Conversion Heuristic Formula.

      C = 4M + 3V + 2(I-F) – 2A

      Analyzing this formula, notice that the biggest, most influential element is Motivation.

      • What is going on in your prospect’s minds when they hit the page?
      • Their expectations?
      • What are they looking for?

      There are so many questions, yet we cannot control them. We might be able to influence the visitors’ motivation to visit the page, but the entire control is not possible. Then what can we control? The next biggest element, Value Proposition.

      Let’s look at the most widely used meanings of Value Proposition.

      1. What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM)
      2. Why should I choose you over X?
      3. What is your differentiator?
      4. What’s your unique advantage?
      5. What’s the reason to buy from you?

      Creating A Value Proposition

      Now that we understand what is a value proposition, let’s dive into how to create effective value propositions. Before moving forward, we will be using the first 2 meanings/questions of value propositions.  Listing them down in a sequential manner:

      1. Gather your team & stakeholders.
      2. Ask them, What’s In It For Me?
      3. Once someone answers that, ask that person, Why should I choose you over X?
      4. Don’t stop here, as soon as you get the answer, just ask So What?
      5. Don’t stop yet, ask again, Okay, prove it.

      The objective is to stress test your value proposition so so what & prove it over and over again, that you actually get virtually anyone excited, about the promise that you are giving them.

      How To Brainstorm the BEST Unique Value Proposition

      Keeping in mind that brainstorming the best value proposition is really about the most promising value proposition but then you really should try to validate it with external research as early as you can. These are the steps that are recommended to take.

      List Your Product’s Key Features

      1. Pinpoint Those That Are Unique
      2. List Customer Pain Points for Each Feature
      3. Define Desirable Outcomes for Each Pain
      4. Score Pains/Outcomes by Severity & Frequency
      5. Edit Top>Scored Pain/Outcomes Into MVPs
      6. Score the UVPs (and go with the best one!)


      How To Conduct A Copy “Teardown” by Jibran Yousuf

      How To Conduct A Copy “Teardown”

      In this digital era, a website is mandatory for every business that is launched.  However, the effectiveness of these websites depends on several factors. In this article, we will focus on the basis of a copy teardown, which is an essential step in enhancing product messaging.

      Before we dive deeper into the product messaging, I would like to mention that the following content is based upon the learnings that I did during the eighth Week of Conversion Optimization, my mini degree course at CXL Institute, led by Peep Laja & team.

      If you are a startup, your website should be optimized for

      1. Building relationships with your customers
      2. Ultimately selling your product

      Every visit counts—especially if it’s a qualified visit.

      Basis Of Copy Teardown

      When we talk about conventional teardowns, the biggest problem is that page tear downs or their heuristic analogies, they can be hugely opinion-based, and when that happens people contend to just revel in channeling their inner Simon Cowell and just ripping a page to shreds based on just what they like or they don’t like.

      To avoid this, we will be focusing on three elements for the systematic copy teardown approaches backed by proven formulas.

      Basis of copy teardown.

      Image Courtesy: CXL Institute

      MECLab’s Conversion Heuristic Formula – Teardown Element #1

      In order to address the persuasive argument on the page affecting the conversion rate, MarketingExperiments’ came up with a formula (not an actual mathematical equation). This equation focuses on the probability of conversion, or in other words the probability that your visitor is going to make a purchase.

      Basis of copy teardown. - MarketingExperiments' Conversion Heuristic Formula

      Image Courtesy: CXL Institute

      Let’s discuss the elements in this formula.

      • C = Probability of Conversion – What is the probability of the prospects saying yes to your offer?
      • M = Motivation – Understand the prospect’s motivation and make sure that your messaging is aligned with that motivation.
      • V = Clarity of Value Proposition – What are you offering your prospects that they can’t get anywhere else?
      • I = Incentive – Special offers to incentivize customers to purchase their products.
      • F = Friction – Decreasing the friction, such as a low number of clicks to buy, easy checkout process, etc.
      • A = Anxiety – Take care of FUDs (Fears, Uncertainties & Doubts)

      Cialdini’s Principals Of Persuasion – Teardown Element #2

      One of the most cited books on Influence & Persuasion is Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. First published in 1984, Influence remains an essential item for every marketer’s reading list.

      In Influence, Cialdini boils down the key ingredients into the following “weapons of influence”:

      Basis of copy teardown. -Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence/persuasion

      Image Courtesy: CXL Institute

      There are six original principles, whereas the seventh principle has been added pertaining to periodic updates to product messaging.

      A large part of the successful high-converting landing page lies in understanding and channeling that perfect mix of persuasive ingredients that convinces visitors to act.

      Let’s discuss the elements:

      • Social Proof – Target the tribal human nature, every time we are uncertain, we take cues from people around us.
      • Authority – In order to be trusted, you need to position your brand as an authority
      • Liking – People end up buying a particular product simply because we like the person selling it to us.
      • Scarcity/Urgency -People desire the things they perceive as less available. That’s the principle of scarcity.
      • Reciprocity – People are conditioned to follow the rule of “give and take”.
      • Commitment/Consistency – Align the external behaviors with inner beliefs and values. Focus on the rule of commitment and consistency.

      Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising – Teardown Element #3

      Widely regarded as the first conversion copywriter, Claude Hopkins used to put promo codes in his ads that people had to use to get the offer. Based on these unique promo codes, he was able to track the conversions, effectively analyzing the results to continually improve his ad results.

      “We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn how to win one.” – Claude C. Hopkins

      Hopkins’s Rule #1: Be Specific

      A generic copy that summarizes a lot of things is more likely to be completely forgotten by people, as it lacks really fine, specific memorable details. If you want your copy to stand out, focus on the specificity. 

      “Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatsoever… People recognize a certain license in selling talk as they do in poetry. A man may say, “Supreme in Quality” without seeming a liar, though one may know that other brands are equally as good … But just for that reason, general statements count for little. And a man inclined to superlatives must expect that his every statement will be taken with some caution. …But a man who makes a specific$claim is either telling the truth or a LIE. People don’t expect the advertiser to LIE.”

      Hopkins’s Rule #2: Offer Service

      “Remember that the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interest or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. …The best ads ask no one to buy … [They] are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They cite advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample … so the customer may prove the claims without any risk. Some of these ads seem altruistic.
      But they are based on a knowledge of human nature.”

      Hopkins’s Rule #3: Tell The Full Story

      “There is no fixed rule on the subject of brevity. One sentence may tell a complete story on a line like chewing gum. It may on an article like Cream of Wheat. But, whether long or short, an advertising story should be reasonably complete.”

      Hopkins’s Rule #4: Be A Sales(wo)man

      “There is one simple and right way to answer many advertising questions. Ask yourself: “Would this help a salesman sell the goods? Would it help me sell them if I met the buyer in person?” …Some argue for slogans, some like clever conceits. Would you use them in personal salesmanship? Can you imagine a customer whom such things would impress? If not, don’t rely on them for selling in print.” … When one tries to show off or does things merely to please himself, he is little likely to strike a chord which leads people to spend money.”

      So, are you ready to teardown your website copy using the above-mentioned formulas?

      P.S: If you found this post helpful, please share it on social media.