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Original Website Marketing Starts With a Swipe File

Nov 2, 2007
The first time I heard about swipe files I was shocked. I thought we would write copy. Swiping? Aren't we supposed to be original?

But I've since learned that swipe files often help create some of the most original websites around the Internet.

A swipe file is a collection of examples of great copywriting. You might have a physical paper file or a list of bookmarks in your Internet browser.

A swipe file is not a license to plagiarize. You cannot copy someone else's keywords or results ("earned $30K in one month") unless they apply equally to you.

In fact, typically your best "swipes" come from copy targeted at a market that is totally different from your own, for products you would never dare to use. a If you do any writing -- web content, books, sales letters-- you can use swipe files 3 ways.

(1) Get ideas for headlines and bullets.

Remember the old line about "They laughed when I sat down at the piano..." You cannot swipe the line if you are selling piano lessons, like the original ad.

But let's say you are selling fitness coaching or legitimate arthritis remedies targeted to people over 50. You might come up with a headline, "They laughed when I said, 'I'll walk up three flights of stairs. And then I scampered up like a teenager.'"

(2) Add spice to your style.

Nearly all copywriting masters advise their students, "Take a famous ad and copy it out, word for word." Some say, "Don't use a computer: write by hand."

Of course you'll never use the exact words you're copying in your own work product. But you begin to appreciate how the words go together and you become unconsciously influenced by what you read.

Sometimes, when I'm getting ready to write, I'll find samples from an over-the-top edgy copywriter. I'll write a few paragraphs, daring to be outrageous.

Then I go back to my own copy, in my own style. The result? Just enough edge to be interesting, not enough to overpower my own writing.

(3) Get inspired.

Every so often you're trying to write some copy...and you keep staring at a blank page. Now is a good time to read through the swipe file.

For example: Find a set of bullets in a successful ad. Now rewrite those bullets with your own product,target and benefits.

Here are 2 imaginary examples for a weight loss product:

"How to lose 20 pounds without feeling hungry," and, "The one kind of chocolate that actually helps you lose wweight"

Now let's say you are selling a time management product. You would modify these bullets:

"How to add 2 extra hours to your day without feeling pressured," or, "The one kind of clock that actually helps you meet deadlines."

Keep going with all the bullets you see, adapting them to your product or service. By the time you reach 6, you're probably filled with inspiration.

And don't be surprised if your copy looks nothing like the file you swiped from.
About the Author
FREE 7 Best-Kept Secrets of Websites That Really Attract Clients: My Special Report gives you insider tips to convert tire-kickers to buyers and earn money while you sleep. From Cathy Goodwin, The Content Strategist, at Website Marketing Strategies
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