Blog Post

Direct Response Copywriting for Online Businesses

March 28, 2017
Table of Contents

Copywriting can be challenging as often times it is difficult to summarize what your business offers into a short description in an ad. It becomes even more challenging when you have to stay within the character limit for search engine text ads.

As a PPC account manager, I’ve engrained myself with the industry’s best practices when it comes to writing enticing ad copy along with implementing standard A/B testing methods for continual improvement. Lately, I’ve been wanting some inspiration for a more outside-the-box strategy than just abiding by the industry’s standard procedures and began browsing online for ad copy writing courses.

UDemy offers a variety of self-improvement classes to help further your knowledge in general marketing and business as well as specific areas of expertise. I searched through the site and stumbled upon a course title that really caught my eye – “Direct Response Copywriting for Online Businesses”. Shortly after reading through the synopsis of the course, I was sold.

The course is instructed by Paolo Garcia, an award-winning marketer who won AWeber’s Email Marketing Games for Best Email Subject Lines. He is a big fan of Gary Bencivenga who is universally acknowledged as “The World’s Greatest Living Copywriter”, and the purpose of this course is to uncover Gary’s tried and true formula for copywriting.

Apparently back in the day, big direct response publishers would hire copywriters to run split tests against each other and whoever’s copy outperforms the other would get the job. Gary has never lost a split test and outperformed all A-list copywriters, so needless to say he knows a thing or two when it comes to direct response copywriting.

Related: 6 New Best Practices to Help You Write Expanded Text Ads

The main focus of this course reveals Gary’s formula for high converting sales copy. Each element of the formulas is defined and demonstrated with examples. Not only it is easy to remember, it is simple to execute. The reason it works so well is because it counters every objective the buyers typically would have, and this formula can be applied to every online advertising channel. Without further ado, let’s dive into the secret sauce.

The formula consists of 4 components:

  1. Urgent Problem
  2. Unique Promise
  3. Unquestionable Proof
  4. User-friendly Proposition

Urgent Problem

Counters no interest by creating curiosity and providing solutions to the user’s problem.

To write a successful ad copy, Paolo puts an emphasis on the research prior to writing the copy. It is extremely important to perform a thorough research in order to accurately describe the users pain points and grab their attention with effective copy presenting the solution. It boils down to 40% research, 40% writing, and 20% fine-tuning. A few ways to conduct the research are as follows:

  • Discussion Board Forums: can help you find similar forums on the subject of your offering and allow you to read through what people are having issues with
  • Customer Reviews: Go on Amazon and look at both the 1-star and 5-stars competitors, it is in your best interest to know the reasoning behind these consumer ratings. What people are saying about the 1-star competitors can help you identify what’s missing. As for the 5-stars competitors, it will help you gather insights on what else you should be offering.
  • Surveys: Use Google Forms or Survey Monkey to get a general sense of how consumers perceive your offering and utilize that information to help solve the problems

paid media services

Unique Promise

Counters no perceived difference by highlighting your unique selling propositions and what makes you offering different.

No consumer will have an incentive to buy from you if your offering is the same as your competitors, and if it gets to that point it will come down to price. A good way to get an idea of what to put out there is by looking at the reviews of your competitors and taking notes on what they’re offering that you’re not.

Related: Expanded Text Ads –  A Study

It could be something as simple as “made from 10% fruit juice” which helped the soda company Slice capture an impressive 3.2 percent of the $40 billion American market. Paolo stresses in this section how crucial it is to do your homework on researching in order to find out what it is that sets you apart and differentiate you from your competitors.

Unquestionable Proof

Counters no belief by providing concrete proof that your offering actually works.

If people don’t believe in your offering, then they are not going to be interested in making that purchase. Here are a few ways to ensure your audience on the credibility of your offering:

  • Demonstration – this method is very powerful especially if you have a physical product, by demonstrating to your audience how to use the product can break down the barrier of the unknown
  • Creative Guarantee – offering a unique type of guarantee, for example, 1 year or lifetime or even something that is only significant and matters to your core audience such as if you buy a bottle of gummies and return the bottle to get a free refill
  • Reason – provide justification using specifics, describe why it works and the mechanism behind why it works to help the users understand your offering more in-depth
  • Social proof – reviews, testimonials, credibility with doctors or celebrities, etc.

User-Friendly Proposition

Counters no decision by incentivizing people to purchase with a limited time bonus that’s related to your offering.

This element in the formula is typically where most advertisers drop the ball. The last thing you want is to offer a deal or discount that requires too much effort to claim. By the same token, giving people too many choices to pick from can also hinder the purchasing intent.

What you’ll want to focus on is making the purchase instructions extremely easy to follow and guide the users to claim the offers with simple steps. By proposing an offer that users can’t refuse, you will increase their likelihood of completing the sales funnel.

Related: Fast-Track Your Paid Advertising Efforts By Avoiding These 5 Key Mistakes

After completing this course, I’ve realized that some of the elements in Gary’s formula are often overlooked and are crucial to writing successful ad copy. To summarize the course, grab the attention of your ideal buyer by offering a solution to your user’s problems. Dominate your competitors by pointing out your competitive advantage that sets you apart from others in the industry.

Gain the trust of your consumers and make more sales in return by providing concrete proof on how and why your offering works. Give prospects a sense of urgency to buy now by presenting a bonus deal that they cannot refuse and make it easy for them to make a decision. By following this fail-safe formula, you are well-equipped to create the best direct response copy for your online advertising channel.


Empowering you to break the mold.

Kind of like a full-service agency, kind of like an in-house CMO. Elevate your brand's presence with custom strategy, channel expertise, and flawless execution.

Learn More