Good copy vs bad copy — how can you critique your own copy and know if it’s actually good?

This is a common challenge, everyone who is in the writing business has to face. The good news is, there are ways to determine if your copy will sell or sink.

The purpose of good copywriting is to sell. So, if you accidentally produce a bad copy, you are losing money. That’s why it’s so important to stress-test your own work before you send it out to the marketplace.

What are some indicators of good copy? It usually follows a certain framework. It’s conversational and completely different from academic writing. It’s engaging, as its goal is to get the reader to act on it and buy.

Bad copy is chaotic, has no substance, and doesn’t convert. The problem is, nobody writes bad copy on purpose. So, if your sales message doesn’t work, the reason is most likely your lack of knowledge about the principles of copywriting.

If you are a copywriter who’s starting out or a business owner writing copy for themselves, you want to learn the basic principles of copywriting. You also want to learn how to critique your own work.

You see, most people can write okay copy, but they can’t revise it themselves. They don’t know what to watch out for and might send out a weak sales message. That’s why proven principles and self-critique are vital.

At the same time, you don’t want copywriting to eat up all your time. With our good copy vs bad copy 3-step formula, you can assess your own copy and make sure you use your writing time efficiently.


Step 1 – The Battle Is Won Before It’s Fought

Step one of the good copy vs bad copy formula deals with what you do before you write.

Most people would start with a blank piece of paper and try to come up with something. But you want to do exactly the opposite.

Before you even start to write, you want to have basic material ready. Your head should already be filled with ideas.

The thing is, it’s a common misconception that copywriting is a creative process. In reality, copywriting is a mechanical process.

Staring at an empty screen and trying to come up with ideas doesn’t work because you are trying to be creative.

While a spark of creativity might elevate your copy, the base has to be there. What is this base we are talking about?

It’s your research.

Research is probably the most important part of your copywriting process. As Abraham Lincoln said: Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

What you do before you write determines the quality of your writing. Great research also allows you to write that much faster. To create amazing output you first need valuable input.

In copywriting, input equals output. Click To Tweet


Research For Copywriters

This means before you even write anything, most of your time is better spent on research. Proper research ensures that you use what’s proven and don’t fall in the trap of being “creative”.

So, what you want to consider before writing is your target audience. Who are they? What are their hopes and dreams as well as their pain points and fears?

Understanding your target market is vital for good copy. People buy because they feel understood. If you enter the conversation in their heads and speak in their language they will automatically feel understood.

Another thing to consider before you write is your product and offer. How is your offer unique from everything else in the market? What problems are you solving?

What solutions are people currently using? Are they happy about these solutions?

At the end of your research, you want to know your product, your target audience, and your competitors inside and out.

Knowing these elements ahead of time, allows you to create an effective sales message. What’s more, it makes the writing process a lot easier.

Your Client’s Voice

If you are a copywriter working for clients – or even when you write for yourself – make sure to write in a personal voice.

Voice is a huge indicator of good copy vs bad copy. Bad copy has no personality, it’s neutral and cold.

Good copy is based on the business owner’s natural speaking voice. It uses words they would use when speaking. Even if you read it, it feels like you are in a conversation with them.

So, when you do your research, also understand and learn the voice of whom you are writing for. It will make your copy stand out to them because it will be relatable.


Pro-Tip: Talk To People

When it comes to good copy vs bad copy, truly understanding your audience makes all the difference. To understand your ideal client, read forum posts. Many people have in-depth conversations in online forums. Reading those allows you to understand them better.

If you can, it’s a great idea to talk to people who fit your target demographic. Having a real chat over coffee or on the phone might enable you to uncover things people would never openly share online.

Keep in mind that, making it feel like an interview can make the other person uncomfortable. For this reason, they might share less. It’s best to talk in a casual, relaxed environment. Try to speak to them as you would with a friend.

In a natural conversation, people might say brilliant things that you would never think of alone. Use what they say in your sales copy.

Step 2 – Use Proven Structures And Formulas

You can tell good copy from bad copy because good copy follows a structure. Bad copy, on the other hand, might be confusing and without structure.

Using a proven structure or formula saves you time as you know exactly what to write and when.

A common structure is PAS – Problem, Agitate, and Solution.

If you were to follow this structure, you’d start by describing the problem, talking about the emotions it triggers in detail and finally offering a solution.

Formulas like this take the guesswork out of your copy. Instead of being creative, you use what’s already proven to sell.

Now, using what’s proven to sell has one disadvantage. You have to find out by yourself which ads are selling, analyze them, and emulate their structure.

If you don’t have the capacity to do that, using templates and software might be a better idea. Good templates have the basics already in place.

You’ll find prompts on how to start your sentence. All you need to do is fill in the information about your product and maybe tweak it slightly to fit your target audience.

When you use templates, the writing takes almost no time. You already know what to fill in because you did your research. All that’s left to do is maybe tweak the template here and there and you’re good to go.

There is less need for critiquing your own work when you use a template. The structure has already been proven. So, when it comes to good copy vs bad copy, proven structures and templates make a huge difference.


What Every Copy Should Include

Now, there are hundreds of proven copywriting formulas. The right formula, however, depends on what type of copy you are writing. For example, a sales page might follow a different structure than an email.

When it comes to good copy vs bad copy, here are some elements all good copy should include:

  • Headline – Every copy needs a headline that pulls the reader in. Newspaper headlines, video titles, email subject lines – those are all headlines.
  • An opening – There has to be some kind of intro or lead in which guides the leader into the topic.
  • A call to action – When you write sales copy you always want to tell your reader what to do next. That’s what the call to action is for.

If you want to write a good copy that sells rather than sinks, make sure to include these. Further elements you could include are:

  • Bullet points –  They usually highlight the benefits of your product.
  • Sub-headlines – They help you to structure your copy and keep the reader’s attention.
  • Testimonials -They are a great way to add credibility to your sales message. What other people say about your product or service is way more important than what you could say about yourself. So, if you get the chance, include testimonials in your copy.

If you want to grade your own copy and see if it’s good copy or bad copy, make sure to include some of these.

Copy Specific Features

As we mentioned before, keep in mind when you use proven copy structures. What you should use also depends on what kind of copy you are writing.

The structure of an email might be different from the structure of a video sales letter script. While some principles are the same for any kind of copy, some don’t apply to all of them.

Bullet points, for example, are much more common in sales pages than in emails. So, when you write without templates you have to figure this out by yourself first.


Step 3 – Use A Swipe File

This is what the best of the best copywriters do. As we already said, copywriting isn’t a creative process. That’s why the pros don’t invent their copy themselves. They swipe ideas from others.

If you come across a sales message and it absolutely hooks you, then you want to add that piece of copy to your swipe file.

When you do that, you slowly build up a database of proven copy. Swiping is a big differentiator between good copy and bad copy.

When you are just starting out, it might take a while to build up your swipe file. But this also ties back to your research. Collecting files  helps you find out what your competitors do. .

What kind of headlines and call to actions they use? How do they present their sales message? If their copy works, you can swipe it and create something similar.

The rule of thumb for swiping is: if you wished you had written it yourself, then it’s worth swiping it.

What’s more, when you see a business use a certain type of copy for a long time, then you can be sure it’s selling a lot. It’s a good idea to swipe these “evergreen” types of copy.

One of the best examples for this is probably The Wall Street Journal’s sales letter “Tale of Two Young Men”. It ran for 28 years and generated $2 billion dollars in sales.

You can find winning sales letters like that in online swipe files, like for example

How To Swipe Effectively

Swiping cuts your writing time shorter and makes your sales copy more effective. Yet, it only does so if you swipe well.

When you swipe pieces of copy, always keep in mind which audience and industry you are writing for. It might be that your audience is responding to different words and phrases than what you swiped from.

That’s why it’s better to swipe the thinking rather than swiping the words. Ask yourself why this piece of copy works and how you can create something similar. Good copy vs bad copy also depends on the quality of your swipes.

Which words and structure to use depends on how well your audience knows you and how warmed up they are.

Somebody who’s never heard of your product might be cold towards it. So, your copy needs to warm them up before they are ready to buy.

But some people in your target audience might know you already and they are open to buying from you. They might need less persuasion and respond to a completely different sales message.

That’s why the research, in the beginning, is so important.

So, the best thing you can do is use a great swipe file and adjust it for your audience, product, and niche.

Sometimes, if an audience is overexposed to a certain copy, you can put a creative twist on it. For example, let’s assume everyone in your niche uses the hook How to save money, guaranteed. What you can do is say the exact opposite, for example, How to lose money, guaranteed. 

Twists like that catch the reader’s attention and make you stand out. However, don’t overuse this, it will lose its effect.


Words To Swipe

Usually, you’d want to swipe the structure and ideas from proven sales copy. Don’t copy every single word they use.

But there are some words you can swipe. Power words hold a lot of emotion and are very engaging for the reader.

Words like that might be: discover, secret, unlimited, bonus, sensational, or no-risk. What’s more your audience and niche might have some industry-specific power words.

If you use them, you instantly appear “as one of them” and they trust you more.

What you can also swipe are common expressions and clichés, as well as transition words and phrases.

What If You Had All Of This In One Place?

What if you could find all proven templates, structures, and copy elements in one single place. Instead of searching all over the internet, you’d only have to log into one portal and have everything you need.

Dan Lok and his team created exactly that. This portal is called Instant Scripts and it’s an online software that helps you generate winning sales copy in one click.

While your good copy vs bad copy 3-step framework helps you navigate swipe files and prepare your good copy, Instant Scripts cuts your writing time in half.

Instant Scripts provides you with templates, so you don’t have to go out and find proven formulas by yourself.

Instant Scripts also includes over 7000 copy generators. It has everything from headlines over bullet points to call to actions. These fill-in-the-blank pieces of copy help you to put together your unique copy.

It’s all swiped but nobody notices it.

This is a massive swipe file that allows you to write your copy based on what already works. There are also industry-specific scripts, so you can easily adjust your copy to your niche and audience.

Instant Scripts takes all the guesswork out of copywriting. All you need to do is a bit of research. Then, open up instant scripts and create your copy within minutes.

How can we guarantee that all the copy inside Instant Scripts works?

Well, Dan Lok started as a copywriter 20 years ago. Over the years he has created a huge swipe file, and Instant Scripts is based on this massive copy vault. What’s more, all of the top copywriters on Dan teams use Instant Scripts too.

Double Your Sales In Half The Writing Time

Instant Scripts helps you avoid all the mistakes that would weaken your copy.

With this software, you focus on understanding the audience and the overall strategy. The copywriting process itself then only takes a few minutes.

No matter, if you are a copywriter or a business owner, saving time on writing, allows you to increase your sales. You don’t waste your time with a copy that doesn’t convert and focus on what works instead. Get Your Access To Instant Scripts Now.