Is writing a dreadful or intimidating activity for you?
If you answered no, congratulations on being gifted in the top 5-10% of the world's population with natural writing ability.
If you answered yes, welcome to the club...
You might feel you are all alone but that's actually how most marketers felt when they first started copywriting.
Hopefully, by the end of this list, you'll discover the joy not just of writing but of learning how to communicate and persuade your customers using the written word.
What is copywriting?
To learn what copywriting really is, we travel back in time to the beginning of the last century. John E. Kennedy, a forefather of modern advertising, originally coined the phrase:
Salesmanship in print
That definition summarizes exactly what copywriting should be in a concise and succinct fashion.
It involves both the art and science of writing copy that sells your product or service and persuades your audience to take an action.
Instead of having a salesperson do the persuasion and "selling", the words do the work of convincing for you.
The power behind that concept is simply amazing!
It means your copy can do the hard work for you 24/7 even while you sleep!
The important role copy plays in business makes writing copy that converts (it can be any action you direct them to like your page on Facebook, follow on Twitter, subscribe to your newsletter, or purchase a product), makes it an important skill to acquire. Yes, it is still partly a skill.
A skill means it can be learned.
While it is an art form to some degree, we suggest you tread the well-worn path others walked before.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, follow the tried and true techniques that have worked. Leave the art form part to the master wordsmiths.
It means you can learn copywriting and improve your skillset. Like any craft, honing copywriting skills is similar to sharpening a sword.
4 Simple Rules to Follow When Writing on the Web
Before we dive into the resources, we need to lay some foundations first.
There are simple "rules" to follow when writing on the web (yes, they really are pretty straightforward and simple to follow).
1. Know your audience
Knowing who exactly we are addressing in marketing is rule #1. If you forget everything else below and you only remember this one rule, you're already ahead of your competitors in your ad creation and copywriting.
Too often, we see business owners forget this cardinal rule. How is this possible? Don't they "know" their customers?
The proof is in the pudding. Their ads appear to speak to their competitors instead of their customers! That's because ads either contain too much technical jargon or focus on the features and not the benefits.
For this reason, we always start our clients in our digital marketing coaching program with a Customer Avatar Worksheet [Free download]. It lays out the precise buyer persona you as the business want to target for the product or service.
2. Write short, simple sentences (emphasis is readability)
If you rotate your text counterclockwise and make the text stand up sideways such that sentences produce a graph-like shape, does the text go up and down with frequent highs and lows?
Still not sure? Run your text through the Readability Test Tool.
Generally, we're not writing to cater to PhDs. The best readability range to cater to is between 7th-9th grade. Mass market novels target 7th-9th grade level reading ability. The same goes for entertainment on TV and the movies.
Write not to impress your readers but to sell.
Therefore, avoid "big" words your readers might not understand like elucidate, obfuscate, or quintessential. Keep it simple.
Run your text through the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level to see how your text scores.
3. Use active voice
Active verbs help people imagine taking action and an active voice keeps writing more efficient and concise. Less wastage means you make every word in your copy count.
Here are some examples.
Instead of: The marathon was run by Bryan in record time.
Use: Bryan ran the marathon in record time.
Instead of: The product was released yesterday by Acme Company.
Use: Acme Company released the product yesterday.
Instead of: Our products are enjoyed by our customers.
Use: Our customers enjoy our products.
4. Let your voice come through
Write as you would speak in a normal conversation. If you write similar to how your talk, your voice comes through the writing and you feel more comfortable expressing yourself. People like to deal with people and speaking like a normal person to your audience/customers drives sales.
The reality is, once you realize that writing is simply expressing yourself as you are, in your voice, you'll begin to write a whole lot better and find writing to be an easier task as well.
List of Copywriting Resources To Turn Your Next Writing Project Into A Conversion Machine
Now that we've got the guidelines out of the way, let's get to the good stuff...
We've compiled the best copywriting resources in the form of books, blogs, articles, videos, infographics, and podcasts to empower your next copywriting journey. As an important topic in business, we’ve included a variety of mediums for the consumption of the content as everyone learns differently. While most are visual learners, auditory and kinesthetic learners can still benefit from these invaluable resources too.
While much of the advertising has moved online away from TV, newspapers, and other print ads, there is much to learn from the original ad masters as well as the modern marketers of today. Humans haven’t changed much although technology has moved at a quick pace.
For ease of consumption, we’ve split up the list into seven sections so you can quickly jump to the section that interests you most.
While you won't be a master wordsmith overnight, you'll definitely be able to craft above-average copy with the information you learn. Sections include:
- Best Copywriting Books of All Time
- Copywriting Sites and Guides Worth Checking Out
- How to Write Attention-Grabbing Headlines
- How to Write Incredible Call To Action (CTAs)
- SEO Copywriting to Boost Traffic and Conversions
- E-Commerce Copywriting
- Copywriting Podcasts
As you read on (as well as into each of these resources), I challenge you to keep an open mind of how copywriting applies in your particular industry.
For instance, some of the ads from the ad greats may come across as being dated and irrelevant. Consider the power of headlines and how crucial they are in grabbing a web visitor’s attention.
It is in the understanding of the underlying principles and concepts that will propel your conversions and sales whether offline or online. With that, I give you the list…
Here are the copywriting books I have in my library and I wholeheartedly recommend them to you (using my Amazon affiliate link which I earn a teeny amount from if you buy, at no extra cost to you).
Some books are more advanced in nature and others cover the gamut. I personally like to learn from the advertising greats as they blazed a trail for us that we can follow. The more modern take might help those who are looking for online specific ideas.
AKA The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, you’ll get advice from establishing authority to writing clarity. An excellent primer to learn how to create copy that converts.
Another giant in the advertising world, Ogilvy was known as the “Father of Advertising” and one of the original Mad Men. He was well-known for some of the greatest ads ever written. While some ad content may be dated, much of the ideas presented are still relevant to us today.
I love the ad he produced for Rolls-Royce and how it spoke to the rich and famous’ desire to escape the average world - the headline: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”. Simply a classic.
Another master of advertising and a marketing genius, Kennedy wrote many books in a multitude of areas spanning business improvement, time management, and copywriting. The Ultimate Sales Letter is an awesome resource for those seeking to improve their online sales page writing prowess.
You’ll learn how to assemble an effective sales message regardless of the marketing medium.
While Schwartz’s book is on this list, it is also a great resource for every business owner and anyone who wants to master marketing. A hard-to-find book that is no longer in print, Breakthrough Advertising is one of the most stolen books at the local library! If you’re able to get a hold of a copy, do so as it is worth every dollar.
In this book, you’ll find an immense number of gold nuggets to strewn throughout, and for this reason, I recommend taking your time to get through it given the more advanced nature of its ideas. I particularly enjoyed the deep-dive into the various stages of product maturity and how you should tailor your message accordingly.
A classic written in the 1920s, many of the principles within still true today. Regarded as the grandfather of modern advertising. David Ogilvy, an ad great himself, credited Scientific Advertising for transforming his life. That speaks volumes of these books being among the greats.
Another classic must-read book that belongs on any copywriter’s shelf is Caples’ seminal work on formulas to appeal to the mass audience and boost the copy’s sales power. His book is one of those you’ll want to read several times over to truly get into the mind of this genius.
Side note: Copywriters prefer the 4th edition of this book but it can be hard to find.
Another classic published in the 1930s and from another copywriter who used his techniques to sell millions of dollars worth of products. Contained within are dozens of actual sales letter examples written to promote everything from books to luggage along with Collier’s insightful commentary.
A distinguished copywriter, Bob wrote many ads offline and has since updated his book to include some online aspects as well. Bly demonstrates the “print salesmanship” principle, as defined by John E. Kennedy, by explaining the value of writing benefits instead of features.
You’ll come away with a step-by-step process to take in your writing and his follow along with the examples that show how engaging writing doesn’t have to dwell in all the details.
Specifically written for the Internet, Bob asks the online marketer “What does your site have to keep them there?”. He analyzes the difference in online and print copy and teaches you how to get more mileage from your online copy and making every word count.
A modern take on advertising, Luke delivers a book that shows that responsive advertising is not only effective but also connects at the emotional level with its customers.
He says, “digital isn’t a medium, its a way of life” and that appropriately sums up how online marketers can extract the wonderful advice from the masters as I’m sure he did. He teaches you that creativity should be secondary to strategy and copywriting is not about inspiration but a replicable process.
Written by the Eisenbergs who are renowned for conversion rate optimization. Their book offers substantive tips and recommendations to turn your online copy into an effective sales tool.
You’ll learn how to see your web copy as a continuous process of testing and tweaking to optimize conversions.
If you’ve ever struggled with writer’s block (which we hope you’ll overcome with our list of resources), you’ll appreciate Phrases That Sell. It is one of the books you’ll want within reach while you are writing copy. Like a spark that lights the fire, you’ll be inspired to begin writing great copy.
In Breakthrough Copywriting, Garfinkel accomplishes his goal of simplifying complex ideas and explains the psychology behind the concepts.
He provides template headlines and template copy that act as good frameworks to get started. You’ll also want to check out his podcast (see the podcast section of this post) if you’re an auditory learner.
Learn how to explain your product or service in an easy to understand manner, even with difficult concepts such as technology. The key to knowing how to explain yourself and to have the listener get what you are saying is understanding your audience - very true indeed.
One of the great techniques LeFever uses is analogies. By using common analogies, you cut through difficult to explain concepts and ideas like a hot knife through butter so that your customers “get it”.
Studying last century’s greatest marketers (such as Caples, Collier, Hopkins, and Ogilvy) Simpson and Kurtz distills the ideas of these geniuses into easily “digestible” advice suited to the modern audience.
It is a highly recommended read to start wading into learning about writing copy from the legends if you struggled with any of those books above.
As we were compiling this list of sites, the challenge arose in shortlisting sites worthy of being included due to the overwhelming number of online resources available. We wanted to include information that would not be repetitive or unoriginal. Below, you’ll find the best of the best we’ve found that will turbocharge your copywriting skills without spending a dime.
Arguably one of the world’s greatest living copywriters, Gary delivers a wealth of information contained within each bullet (essay). It is well worth your while to digest each bullet’s advice to begin writing more impactful sales copy.
One of the greatest copywriters who ever lived is Gary Halbert. If that is a reputation he earned, you can certainly learn a thing or two from his archives. Scroll down to see the “letters” displayed aptly as letters. It’s an absolute goldmine of goodies. In it, you’ll also find the Boron letters that were republished into a book on its own. These were a collection of letters Gary wrote to his son Bond. If you prefer reading the physical printed version, it's worth picking up.
Carlton is known as “the most ripped-off writer on the Web”. Known as a true master of his craft and respected by many well-known marketers today, read his blog and get into the mind of someone who not only practices his craft extremely well but teaches it equally so.
Wiebe's blog is a goldmine of information dedicated to copy that converts. Lots of actionable content you can put to use immediately. Here are some notable content pieces for you to zoom into as a start.
Contains gems such as worksheets and checklists. Simple, yet effective tools to organize your thoughts. Get the worksheets to begin applying your newly acquired knowledge.
Find out if you are making any of these mistakes and learn what you are already doing right.
Another of Wiebe’s simple but powerful advice on the power of copy to move your visitors through your funnel.
A great blog by Matt Ambrose in the UK that’s worth following to learn all things related to copywriting, persuasion, email marketing, and lead generation.
Get thoughts on effective storytelling, online copywriting, and sales by John Forde.
Lots of incredible content on Brian Clark’s blog to wade through. I highly recommend starting with his 10-lesson e-course ‘Copywriting 101’ which teaches the fundamentals of direct-response copywriting.
When I began my journey of copywriting, I learned the idea of AIDA - the classic copywriting formula used by almost every copywriter. In Smashing’s blog post, they describe how AIDA doesn’t always help people who want to know how to capture the Attention, generate Interest, create Desire, resulting in Action. The writer explains what the missing ingredients are to successful copywriting in his 6+1 model.
See 20 actual examples of websites that are using online copy well to accomplish their goals.
A great tip sheet containing important reminders that you can use as a checklist of sorts before hitting the publish button.
You’ll get ideas that are proven to work online such as “make it skimmable”, “make it feel like a conversation” and of course “craft a compelling call-to-action”.
Quicksprout’s Complete Guide to Copywriting
Get a quick primer into what’s important in copywriting.
Backlinko’s Copywriting Definitive Guide
A well-organized guide broken up into 8 chapters that take you from a newbie to an advanced copywriter.
Equip yourself to tackle the growing problem of short attention spans and information overload. Understand how visitors scan a website so you can make them stay longer to deliver the message you want them to get. It makes writing catchy headlines a vital skill on the web.
Brian Clark’s site contains many invaluable resources such as the Copywriting 101 guide mentioned earlier. In this guide, you learn to write magnetic headlines that pull your readers into the copy.
Are your headlines too long for the web? This writer thinks so and advocates the 65 character limit. Read more and decide for yourself.
If you're still struggling with your headline, here are some helpful templates to get the ball rolling.
See the headlines of real sites in action.
What better way to capture the interest of visitors to your site than to model after the proven winners?
Get a quick start to great headline writing with these formulas.
A veritable goldmine of proven ads you reference to get a leg up on your competition. Swipe files are great resources to help you overcome writer’s block and get the creative juices flowing.
Don't struggle to come up with words that deliver that impactful punch again! Review this list of words and use them as appropriate.
More power words for you to turbocharge your copy and increase conversions.
A free tool that analyzes your headline to arrive at EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) score and compares it to the industry average.
Here you get 50 real-life examples of great CTAs you can model after as a start. It’s not just any CTA either but a strong one that convinces people to take action.
You’ll get 21 real examples of what works and how to adapt traditional marketing techniques (aka print medium) to the digital format.
One of the best ways to get the attention of a reader is a pattern interrupt, something the visitor may not be expecting. Besides the regular CTAs you’ve seen, learn some great ways to create CTAs such as getting “Likes” and other cool ways to deploy your CTAs
Can’t get enough of CTAs? Here are 39 more examples from HubSpot.
Learn how each of the 14 companies featured used rich CTA copy to compel visitors to click and convert.
Capitalize on the six tested ways to convert more on your site with real-life examples.
What better way to learn how a successful marketer thinks than to read critiques of actual sites based on 3 points: Value, Relevance, and What I’d Test.
Besides learning CTA best practices, get 54 proven words and phrases to use in your CTAs.
You’ll also get insights on what works for color and size choices of CTA buttons as well as other conversion boosting tips with examples.
Don’t assume anything! Get insight into how testing plays an important role in optimizing conversions.
Another real-life example of a CTA optimization that lifted click through rates.
SEO Copywriting to Boost Traffic and Conversions
More guides from CopyBlogger, this time with SEO in mind.
While search engine optimization is moving gradually away from pure link building as an optimization technique, there are still gems to writing effectively for the web that results in conversions in this article.
Some are rarely mentioned in other blogs but still play a crucial role in attention-getting, retention, and conversion.
Which is better - long copy or short copy? Don't guess...the only way to find out is by testing! Read this case study to see what they did.
For those with e-commerce sites, here’s a list especially for you.
A comprehensive look at various aspects of e-commerce copywriting and conversion optimization.
Learn how quality product descriptions lift conversion rates and search traffic. All the more reason to quit being lazy and rewrite the descriptions manufacturers supply for their products.
Here you get a good review of some of the concepts that may be missed out such as psychological triggers and effect on copy and speaking to your audience.
Learn how a product description is your marketing copy. Don’t just write descriptions that describe your products - write with the audience in mind and focus on benefits, not features.
Get a behind the scenes look as a copywriter breaks down what works and what doesn’t on an e-commerce example.
Learn how to increase usability, persuade, build trust, as well as SEO.
Lots of articles on conversion rates, some for non-ecommerce sites.
Learn the rules to boost your site conversions with examples from various e-commerce sites.
For our auditory learners out there, here are podcasts we've found to be helpful and largely focused on writing copy.
Copywriters Podcast by David Garfinkel
Listen as his invited guests share their tips and ask David Garfinkel questions to improve your writing.
Copywriter Club Podcast
Get great insights into writing copy that converts from various guests and the podcast's hosts.
Hosted by Darrell and Vesterfelt and Tim Stoddart, you get advice on a myriad of online marketing topics such as content marketing, conversion optimization, email marketing, and of course copywriting.
Best Page Forward Podcast
Books are a great way to build authority. This podcast is aimed towards authors looking to write good titles and blurbs to market their book.
Copy That Pops
Podcast that focuses on building authority. There is also advice on book writing, launching, and marketing.
All Good Copy Podcast
Hosted by Glenn Fisher, get more weekly tips and advice from his guests.
Good Copy Bad Copy
Podcast primarily focusing on B2B copywriting.
Geniuses of Copywriting
Not as frequent as the other ones above, this podcast runs once a month. You get into the minds of some great copywriters of today.
Time for Action
Are you overwhelmed already? Whether you are a beginner or have been copywriting awhile now, if you are on the verge of analysis paralysis, I suggest that you STOP…
Relax and take a deep breath right now.
Realize that you don't have to swallow all the ideas, advice, and knowledge all at once. Give yourself some time to work through the ideas systematically.
Remember that action reinforces learning. The more you practice it, the stronger that muscle becomes.
Start by first choosing to tackle the most impactful area of your copywriting that needs help. That is usually the headline, but it could be the copy or call-to-action depending on your situation.
IMPORTANT: Only work on one aspect at a time. When you throw too many variables into the soup, you get unpredictable results. Also, working on too many tasks at a time likely causes people to end up with many unfinished projects.
If it is a headline you want to work on, a great starting point would simply be to follow the tested and proven path - take a look at swipe files of ads that worked well. You can reference that above.
How do you eat an elephant?…
One bite at a time.
This list of copywriting resources is a continuous work in progress and will be updated regularly. Do you have a resource to share that's worthy of being added to this list? If so, let us know by leaving a comment! We'd love to hear your feedback.
About the Author: Anthony Yap takes companies to the next level through growth coaching as a digital marketing strategist.