Bradley Nickel

Online Marketing Guy |

4 min read

Write Higher Converting Display Ads With These 8 Formulas

Your ad copy is extremely important not only in getting your prospects to click your ad, but to prime their brains to receive the sales message on your landing page making them more likely to convert.

The good news is you don’t have to be an expert copywriter to write great copy.

There is so much bad copy out there that you don’t have to be the best — you just need to be better than the rest.

This post maes things even easier.

We’ve uncovered several copy “formulas” being used by the top direct response companies and big brands.

Here are our 8 favorites below.

Copy Formula #1: Tell Your Story or “How I lost 20 lbs…” Copy

The key to capturing anyone’s attention is with stories, especially about people who are or were once in our position.

It’s why we love books, movies, and especially reality TV. People are voyeurs. They love to peek inside the lives of others and bear witness to their most embarrassing moments, deepest struggles, biggest wins and how they rose up and triumphed in the face of adversity.

There isn’t enough space in a display ad for you to write an entire memoir. However, you can give your prospects a teaser of the story you’ll tell them once they click your ad.

The teaser in this ad is how a stay-at-home mother is able to make $13,475/month from home. Given that single mothers have time constraints and traditionally can’t work from home, you’re going to wonder how she’s able to make 6+ figures a year. You want to hear her story.

A personal story about how you (or someone else) suffered from the same problem your audience has (weight loss, money problems, business issues, broke up with significant other)  and then found a solution is a very effective sales tool.

Copy Formula #2: “How-To” Copy & Benefits

The “How-To” headline is the most classic copy formula. You simply state what problem your prospect will discover how to solve when they click through.


  • “How To Lose 20lbs in 20 Days”
  • “How To Remove Dark Spots”
  • “How To Lower Your Churn By Focusing On These 3 Metrics”
  • “How To Become Your Client’s Trusted Media Advisor”

Here’s an example from a site that sells blues guitar instruction:

You can also use the “how to” hook inside of your body copy as well, like in this text ad from a law firm that helps people get out of their Timeshare contracts:


The “How To” hook is a great place to start. It might not always be the perfect hook, but it will get you started.

Copy Formula #3: State Benefits, Not Features

People aren’t interested in how many modules your course is, how many pages your book is or how fast your servers are. They want to know how your product will improve their lives.

This means you don’t want to waste precious ad space listing nitty gritty technical details.

Avoid copy like…

  • “100 page eBook that explains…”
  • “A 6 module course…”
  • “Built with the latest AMD 2X Computer Chip”

…and focus on the benefits of your product instead.

Here’s an ad that does it the wrong way and focuses on features instead of benefits:

Now let’s look at an ad from the same company that focuses on the cost effectiveness of the solution (a benefit) instead of inundating the prospect with features.

The emphasis that it’s “cost-effective” and highlighting the price (“starting from $26”) makes this ad much more compelling. Listing technical features is important in certain industries, however it’s better to do this somewhere on your landing page as opposed to in your ad copy.

Copy Formula #4: Hit Them With Emotionally Charged Words

Word choice is very important in copywriting. Changing just one word can transform the emotions of your prospects.

You’ll want to use “power words”. These are words like humiliated, embarrassed, kill and shocking. Power Words are visceral words that grab your prospect’s attention and trigger past memories and experiences in their lives. When someone sees the word “embarrassed” they’ll remember a time when they felt embarrassed. They’ll be curious to know what happened to the person in your copy that made them feel this way

Here’s an ad from an info-product company that helps people overcome their spouse’s infidelity.

Notice how it lists the emotions that most people feel when they find out their spouse has been unfaithful. When you read these words you literally feel the same emotions that someone feels when they discover their partner has been unfaithful.

One thing to keep in mind: Each market has its own set of power words. “Embarrassed” and “enraged” might be too much if you’re selling female beauty creams. However, “glowing”, “youthful” and “supple” might be perfect words. When you find out which words your prospects use to describe their own problems and desires, THOSE are your power words.

Use a Swipe File To Write Better Banner Ads Instantly

The key to consistently writing great banner ads is not to reinvent the wheel. Most copywriters don’t come up with great copy out of thin air. Any copywriter worth his salt has a swipe file that they use as inspiration to write great copy.

What’s a Swipe File?

A swipe file is a collection of ads, headlines, body copy, calls-to-action, etc. from other businesses in your niche. When a copywriter gets stuck or need a bit of inspiration, they take a look at ads that are already proven to work and use them as inspiration. Bad copywriters directly copy ads word-for-word. Good copywriters discover why the copy works and tailor it to their product or service.

Create Your Own Swipe File

You’ll need your own swipe file even if you’re not planning on becoming an expert copywriter. There are a few different ways to create one.

  • Browse publishers where your competitors buy traffic. Find their ads, take screenshots and file them away.
  • Browse publishers where the BIG advertisers take out ads. These are going to be mass market advertisers in niches like weight loss, making money, and dating. Take screenshots of ads that you consistently see and save them in a folder. Large direct response companies are masters and A/B testing banner ads. They know what works.
  • Use software (like Adbeat) to search for your competitors and mass market advertisers.

Copy Formula #5: Use Numbers To Increase CTR
Ads that contain numbers in the copy tend to have a higher CTR than those that don’t. People’s eyes are just drawn to numbers.

This is why you see a lot of blog and ad headlines like…

  • “3 Weird Weight Loss Tricks”
  • “8 Copywriting Tips From a Banner Ad Expert”
  • “How To Lower Your Churn To Under 2%”

Copy Formula #6: Use Social Proof

Social proof might be the most powerful element of all 8.


Because your prospect doesn’t want to be the guinea pig. They want to know your product has already worked for other people. Social proof should permeate through ALL of your marketing, not just your banner ads.

“As seen on TV”, “As featured on CNN”, “Dr. Recommended”, “Used in over 40 different countries”, etc. Pretty much anything that says “A lot of people have used our product/service and loved it” will influence your prospect’s purchasing decision.

Here’s an ad for a protein supplement that combines authority and social proof very well.

  • “5-star Rated Taste”
  • “Recommended At America’s Top Rated Hospitals”
  • “UNJURY is recommended by both doctors and patients…”
  • And to top it all off: a picture of a group of doctors

Here are two text ads that combine numbers with social proof:


Copy Formula #7: Use Special Characters

Special characters like “&”, “%” or “+” stand out and can catch your prospect’s eye. These work well anytime you have a character limit.

Here are a few examples:


Copyright symbols can also be very effective if your brand is well-known and you have a trademark on the name.

Example — Rosetta Stone language learning software:


Copy Formula #8: Speak To Your Audience, Not About Them

“Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

General copy advice is to use “you” and “your” as much as possible. You want to speak to someone, not about something. Using “you” and “your” in your copy can help strengthen the relationship you have with your prospect and make it seem more personal. No one cares about your product or service. They only care about the benefits it provides them and the problems it solves.

“Do You Have These?”

Here’s an ad from John Hancock, a company that sells financial instruments.

They don’t talk about how great their solutions are. They address how their solutions will help you prepare for “what’s ahead”.


Combine a couple of these copywriting tricks together and write a few different styles of ads. Each market responds to a different type of copy and emotion. You won’t know which style of copy works for your market until you test a few out.

Bradley Nickel

Online Marketing Guy |

1 Comment

  1. One thing I partly agree with is with benefits versus features in copy formula #3

    If your market is computer savvy users, then specs is the only thing they are interested in. For anti-virus or anti-malware ads, there can be too many ads sharing same benefits like “Remove virus in your PC” or “Make your PC run faster” and I personally would look on ads that state at least 1-2 features. I am often concerned about real-time protection in anti-virus programs for virus prevention because while many programs offer free full system scan, they require to purchase license to activate real-time protection. So while benefits are good, I would also mention some specifics depending on space available. If there’s no space for features, I would at least make formulate benefit which would leave user curious in order to click-through.



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