Sales Pages 101: Actionable Guide
This is article covers everything you need to know about sales pages, as well as the basics of “copywriting.”
Table of Contents
- What is a Sales Page?
- What is Copywriting?
- Copywriting Principles
- Types of Sales Pages
- How to Write a Sales Page
- The Headline
- The Lead
- The Body Copy
- The Social Proof
- The Risk Reversal
- The Call to Action
- Final Thoughts
In this post you will learn everything you need to know about sales pages.
The right sales page can make you a lot of money.
This particular sales letter (page) generated over $2 billion in revenue.
It did this by utilizing various strategies — I will outline these in this post.
Let’s get this show underway.
What is a Sales Page?
A sales page is a singular page with one primary goal — to sell.
Sales pages were originally called sales letters, because they existed in print.
With the advent of the internet, sales letters became digital — known as sales pages (page as in webpage.)
So, sales page and sales letter are generally the same thing. Page most likely suggests a digital webpage. Letter suggests physical print.
What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is the art and science of using words to incite action.
In marketing context, these actions are usually to sell something or get email signups.
Copywriting is both an art and a science.
There are objective, measureable principles and unique expression to how it is put together.
Sales pages is primarily the domain of copywriting, and thus copywriters.
(Copywriters are people who specialize in writing sales content.)
There are a handful of fundamental copywriting principles that must be followed.
These principles have largely been around since the days when print ruled the scene — the days of David Ogilvy and Claude C. Hopkins.
Here are 7 universal copywriting principles you need to know.
The read-on effect/slippery slope
“The sole purpose of the first sentence in an ad is to get you to read the second sentence.”
That is a famous quote from Joseph Sugarman, another legendary copywriter.
Every line that you write, should be purposed to entice your readers to read the next line.
The idea is to get the your readers from the headline, to the call to action.
Each line plays its part.
This principle is more primary than the others, it can be achieved by utilizing the rest.
It’s something to always keep in mind when writing a sales letter.
The AIDA structure
The AIDA structure is a time-tested advertising/marketing technique that helps readers go down that slippery slope.
AIDA stands for Attention — Interest — Desire — Action.
It was invented in 1898 by advertising hall of famer E. St. Elmo Lewis.
So it’s been around for 121 years — safe to say it has merit.
Here’s an example of how it works.
ATTENTION — Get more website traffic.
INTEREST — Our all-in-one SEO and analytic research tools help you get noticed in the SERPs.
DESIRE — Rated 5/5 stars by SaaS World, our platform is used by top bloggers and e-commerce stores.
ACTION — Try a free 30 day trial.
Here’s a real life example.
To make it easy to understand, here’s how I think of AIDA.
- Attention is listing a benefit, or a bold statement
- Interest explains in detail how that benefit is achieved
- Desire is some form of social proof (more on this later.)
- Action is a call to action (more on this later.)
It can be done in other ways, but I find this way easy and effective.
AIDA is going to be interwoven with the other copywriting principles to come.
Benefits vs. features
In copywriting, it is very important to know the difference between benefits and features.
Benefits are the ideal end result that an individual receives from a product or service.
Example: A benefit of a gym membership would be a more attractive body.
Features are the specific qualities of that product/service that helps an individual reach the ultimate goal (benefit.)
Example: A feature of a gym membership would be access to a treadmill.
Here’s a list comparing features and benefits.
The benefits are what is going to sell your product/service. They are where emotion comes into your sales page.
You then use the features to bring the logic into the equation.
Ultimately, you’re going to list both the benefits and features in a sales letter.
Know the difference between the two, and use them well.
The social proof
Social proof is a powerful psychological phenomena wherein we look at others to make decisions.
“What does this person think about this?”
We look to others to make decisions/opinions because we are afraid of being judged.
“What will people think of me if I buy this/think this?”
Other times we simply do not know what to think, so we trust authorities.
Social proof is one of the most powerful weapons in a copywriter’s arsenal.
Here are some examples of how it’s used in sales pages.
Moz’s sales page (multiple pages) for Moz Pro has a testimonial.
In fact it has a whole page for testimonials.
Testimonials are one of the most common ways social proof is used.
Here’s another way.
MailChimp references that G2 Crowd (a SaaS review site) ranked them the 4th best software company.
How is this social proof?
Well, they are referencing what an authority body (G2 Crowd) thinks of them.
This influences what people might think of MailChimp (social proof.)
Think about back in high school… If the most popular student considered you a friend, it would make you look more popular. It would affect how people perceive you.
That’s social proof at its bare essence.
The unique selling proposition
The unique selling proposition (USP) is some feature or benefit that separates your product/service from the rest.
The USP individualizes what you’re selling.
Another way to look at it is…
“What am I offering that’ll make consumers choose me opposed to competitors?”
And that’s why the USP is important.
Your USP occupies the space between what your customers want, what you do well and what your competitors don’t.
Look at this venn diagram to get the picture.
Figure out what you offer, that your competitors don’t.
Here’s a real example.
Internet security company LifeLock/Norton offers a signature “million dollar protection package.”
The power of urgency/scarcity
You can create a sense of urgency in your potential customer’s mind if you create an environment of scarcity.
Urgency forces them to act, it encourages them to buy.
This is a power psychological tactic that preys on one thing — the fear of missing out.
You see it in sales all the time.
“Sale ends on the 21st.”
“Closing down sale, everything must go!”
There’s a rug store in my city that’s been closing down for 20 years.
Most of the time these “limited supplies” perception of scarcity scenarios aren’t even true.
It doesn’t matter. It’s a sales technique used by copywriters to sell products and services.
Here’s an example from a Gary Bencivenga sales letter.
Gary is one of the greatest copywriters of the modern era.
E-commerce stores will sometimes use scarcity in the product descriptions/page.
The call to action
The call to action is a staple in the marketing and sales worlds.
In case you forgot, a call to action is a small phrase/statement intended to incite an action or response from someone.
Call to actions (CTAs) are typically buttons at the end of sales pages and landing pages.
Copywriting is all about getting readers to act — this is usually to buy something.
The call to action is the final piece of the puzzle. After the persuasive sales pitch, you are telling them to make a decision.
It’s necessary because people are undecided and passive. You need to clear the confusion and clear the path for them.
Types of Sales Pages
Sales pages come in many different forms and styles.
Each of these sales page types will utilize some, if not all of the copywriting principles listed earlier.
Here are some common examples.
The long-form sales page
The long-form sales page is a lengthy sales page featured on a singular webpage.
The long-form sales page is really no different to the long-form sales letter.
It’s just a modern, digital equivalent. Both are still used today.
Here’s a great example — AWAI’s long-form sales page for their copywriting program.
It has a wordcount over 11,500.
Long-form sales pages work well for products and services that need a lot of selling.
These are typically more expensive and complex products/services.
The short-form sales page
Short-form sales pages are common for e-commerce and cheaper, lower-end products.
The copy is short and concise, benefits and features are listed as key points. All of the necessary information is “above the fold.”
Just how short qualifies as “short-form?”
Anything less than 400 words.
Here’s a zoomed-out comparison of long and short-form.
The email sales letter
Email is another avenue where sales content is produced.
Sales emails can be both short and long.
Check out this long sales email I got from Jorden Makelle.
A wordcount of 772.
The video sales letter
A video sales letter (VSL) is a video selling a product or service, as opposed to just text.
VSLs incorporate video with narration, subtitles or even just text on the screen.
Take a look at this example (narration text on the right.)
The video then transitions into text on the screen, eventually ending with an interactive call to action button.
Video sales letters are versatile and highly effective when used for the right product or service.
How to Write a Sales Page
The first thing we are going to address with our sales page is the headline.
Whether you’re writing a sales page for email, video or a webpage… The same best headline practice applies.
Here are 2 things you’ll want to do.
Feature a number
Numbers are great to have in a headline.
They are easy for the brain to process.
You’ll want to use an odd number if you can.
This is because they’ve been shown to increase click-through rate by 20% (source)
Use emotional words
Remember that Joseph Sugarman quote?
“You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.”
The headline is the first impression — this is why it needs to be emotionally charged.
How do we do this?
Use some emotional words.
Here’s a good example.
“Hidden dangers” is a phrase that’ll incite a strong emotional response.
Here’s another example.
It’s an email.
“Warning signs” + “dirty little secret” really pulls you in.
Not all emotions are the same — you want to use the right words for the right emotional response.
Here are some lists to help you find the right emotional words.
- Missing Out
Following up the headline, we need our first few lines to be gold.
These first few lines are known as “the lead.”
The lead is a short preview of what someone should expect, and get out reading the sales page.
That’s exactly why it’s so important.
After looking at headline, they’ll read the lead to judge if the whole sales page is worth reading.
Remember the “slippery slope” copywriting principle? The lead is essential to satisfy this.
To get your lead right, here are some pointers to follow.
Choose either a summary or creative lead
Most leads are of the summary variety — they summarize the story or content of the sales page.
The example earlier is a summary lead.
Creative leads can be some form of anecdote, statistic, observation or story.
Here’s an example — look how they use shocking healthcare statistics.
That’s sure to grab attention.
Both styles of leads work well.
Keep it relatively short
You want to make sure that your lead is not too long.
In journalism they recommend the lead be no longer than 1-2 sentences.
When it comes to sales writing, I think you can afford more length.
Look at this direct mail sales letter.
77 words — more than double the recommended journalistic lead length.
The truth is there’s no specific best length. In a general sense it’s better to be too short than too long.
Look at other sales pages to gauge — you can look at some great examples on Swiped.co
Show your lead to someone, send it to a friend. Test it, ask them if it draws in their attention.
Avoid “burying” the lead
The saying “don’t bury the lead” has its origins in journalism, but it’s definitely applicable for sales writing.
You have only mere seconds to capture your reader’s attention.
Look at how this sales letter throws out a juicy lead.
That’s how you do it.
To avoid burying the lead, follow these tips.
- Avoid irrelevant, boring information
- Prioritize relevant, interesting information
- Who, what, when, where, why, how
- Satisfy “what’s in it for me?”
- Get to your point fast
The Body Copy
You’ve reeled them in with a headline and lead, now it’s time to throw the whole house at them.
I can’t tell you what to write, that comes down to knowing what you’re selling.
I can however, tell you how to write.
To know how to best write a sales page you need to understand the concept of scannable content.
We consume content differently on the internet — scrolling down, looking for key points of interest.
Scannable content is short and to the point, utilizing short sentences, paragraphs, subheaders and bullet points to maximize navigation.
According to Nielsen Norman Group making your content scannable can increase readability up to 47%.
We don’t have the attention spans, or time to waste reading chronologically.
Use short sentences
Look at how short the sentences are in this sales letter.
Shorter sentences make your sales page/letter easy to read.
This is ideal.
Try to keep your sentences short — 20 words or less.
After 20 words, comprehension rate drops drastically.
Keep your paragraphs short
Just like sentences, you’ll want to keep paragraphs short.
Aim for a maximum of 4 lines.
See how difficult large, long, block paragraphs are to read?
A 1939 study supports short paragraphs.
Use bullets and images
Bullet points are a great way to breakup big blocks of text, and deliver features and benefits effectively.
In the copywriting world they’re referred to as “bullets.”
Images are also another essential strategy to make your sales letter more scannable.
You’d be hard-pressed to find sales content without images in 2019.
Images also are easier for the brain to process.
They also increase content credibility by 75% according to this study.
That’s going to apply to a sales page too.
The Risk Reversal
Like the social proof, the risk reversal deserves its own section.
The risk reversal is the “sales guarantee” that mitigates risk in the minds of your potential customers.
You’ve seen them all the time in sales and advertising…
“Return within 30 days, full refund.”
The truth is a risk reversal is more than just a standard guarantee.
It is the ultimate guarantee, destroying any and all risk the potential buyer could possibly take on.
Check out this risk reversal from Copy Chief.
Look at how he actually sells his money back guarantee.
That’s the secret — you need to sell your guarantee.
That’s the difference between a guarantee and a risk reversal.
The risk reversal will be towards the end of your sales page.
You need to have hit them with the whole sales pitch before you ease their risk.
Think of it as a lead-in to the call to action.
The Call To Action
We are now almost done — it’s time to close with the call to action.
This whole sales page is a waste if you don’t have a call to action.
Here are a couple things you should take into account.
Use the right button color
You need to use a button color that draws attention and sticks out.
Look how the call to action button sticks out on this sales page.
High contrast colors like red and orange have proven to be succesful for conversion.
This orange button boosted conversion by 32.5% (source)
And this red button beat out the green button.
It had a 34% higher conversion rate (source)
Can’t go wrong with orange or red.
Just make sure it’s contrasting to the rest of your sales page color scheme.
Use multiple buttons all throughout
Most sales pages will have multiple call to actions littered throughout.
Look at this example.
There’s a call to action at the bottom.
One close to the top.
And lots spread throughout.
There are even different buttons — some with links back to content.
There are 10 call to actions in total.
You need to put multiple call to actions throughout your sales pages because remember.. People scan.
They go back to specific parts.
You need to have a buy button within arms reach at all times.
In this post we covered everything you need to know about sales letters + how to write them.
Did you find this resource useful?
Have any questions? Ask me in the comments below.