The 5 Stages of Writing Irresistible Landing Page Copy

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Landing pages are remarkably powerful conversion and SEO tools that turn traffic into money.

They force readers to focus on one thing — and one thing only.

To boost your email newsletter or blog subscribers …  sell more of your digital or physical product … or dominate a keyword in search rankings … you need to use landing pages.

And lots of them.

But crafting copy for a landing page is an art that goes beyond writing magnetic headlines and copy that sells.

See, you need to know what stage of sophistication (a Eugene Schwartz concept) your market is in before choosing the correct landing page template. Templates help us generate ideas. The stages of sophistication help us choose the right ideas.

Let me show you how this works.

First, there are a two concepts you need to understand.

Building landing pages 101

In the past, building landing pages meant you had to hire a designer and coder. Not anymore.

Tools like Premise make it so a writer like me can write and publish effective, professional landing pages.

Now, to help us sort through these stages of sophistication specifically, we’ll be talking about the headline and subheadline. This is how they look inside your WP admin if you are using Premise:

And when published your headline and subheadline renders like this:

Those are the two terms that are most important to us.

1. Make the promise

When your ideal customer is not aware of your product or the benefit it offers, then the first stage of sophistication demands you simply make a promise in the headline:

  • Build Muscle Anywhere
  • Defeat Credit Card Debt
  • Read More Books

And in the subheadline you would describe the mechanism:

  • This 15-Minute Routine Focuses on Every Muscle in Your Body
  • With Only a Calendar and Spreadsheet
  • The World’s First Speed Reading App

I purposely chose three markets that have gone through all five stages to help you see how markets progress.

2. Take your promise to the next level

As the market begins to be educated about your product, and competitors enter that market … the power of your original promise will begin to fade. Customers will seek a distinction.

At this stage you need to state your promise even more clearly …

  • Build Muscle on Almost Every Inch of Your Body
  • How to Eliminate $3,000 in Debt in Only 30 Days
  • Read 24 Books in 24 Hours

Beef up the subheadline (mechanism), too. As you can imagine, you will be pushing the limits of credibility. But let me be very clear …

Though you’re pushing limits here, you must never lie, never misrepresent your product, and avoid hyperbole at all costs.

If you can’t back up your promise or claim with fact, don’t state it.

3. Lead with mechanism, promise second

In the third stage of sophistication, we find the consumer weary of your product and others.

They’ve been exposed to extreme promises and have learned to tune out these claims. You need a technique to reset their expectations.

At this stage the mechanism comes first, and the claim second. The mechanism becomes the point of difference.

  • This 15-Minute Chair Routine Builds Muscle on Almost Every Inch of Your Body
  • Hands-Down: Simplest Method to Defeating Debt
  • Introducing a New App to Solve the Slow Reader’s Dilemma

And the promise is then elaborated on in the subheadline.

4. Take the mechanism to another level

When stage three copy has been replicated in the market and reached saturation, the power of this headline fades. It’s time to elaborate and enlarge on the mechanism.

Make it easier, quicker, and better. Solve more of the problem and overcome old limitations.

  • Now … Build Muscle Tone in Less Than 7 Minutes a Day
  • Wall Street Journal Accountants Swear This Is The Fastest and Easiest Way to Defeat Debt
  • Read War and Peace This Afternoon with Our Addicting “Angry Reader” App Game

This is a stage of embellishment not unlike stage two. Eventually you will reach a point that pushes the embellishment out of the realm of believability, and you must discover a new meaningful and believable mechanism.

5. Identify with the consumer

At this stage the market is glutted.

The field is exhausted, and it is the most difficult stage to profit in. This is where you revive a dead product by shooting directly at the consumer.

  • Why Some Men Are So Skinny
  • Why Some People Will Never Get Out of Debt
  • Are You Embarrassed to Tell People You’ve Never Read the Classics?

And the mechanism is explained in the subheadline.

Think about this

Here’s the deal. This is the same life cycle for every market. It begins in stage one and closes in stage five. As you can see this presents some challenges for business owners, namely, they must adapt or perish.

You may enter a new market and clean house, only to fall behind when competitors enter and steal market share. The business of successful selling is about constant improvement. Constant change.

This is not to say you can’t land on a control (your best-performing headline and sales copy — for example, this is our current reigning control for StudioPress) that works for twenty-five years.

That, however, is the exception rather than the rule.

More likely a strong control will have two or three years of life before you have to move onto the next stage of sophistication.

Here’s why this is important …

Over in our Authority forum we see a lot of members sharing their landing pages for feedback … and one of the most obvious problems I see is a lack of understanding when it comes to market sophistication: almost everyone starts in stage one when the markets they are competing in are in the advanced stages … if not in the final.

That will not get the job done.

So, here’s your homework: take one of your products or services and work it through these five stages. Write headlines and subheadlines for each stage. This is not easy, but the more you practice the better you will get.

And of course, if you need an easy way to construct these landing pages, you can’t do much better than Premise.

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Reader Comments (34)

  1. says

    Hi Demian,

    Thanks for the nice post. I’ve heard about this landing page, but most times, I forget to make a buying decision. Guess, it’s now time to take action.

    See you around Demian,

    Daniel ”the web content writer”…

  2. says

    Small changes in language can make all the difference. How you phrase something, how specific you get in your points can either drastically help or hinder the success of your landing page. You’ve got to keep tweaking things until you figure out what works!

  3. says

    Hi, thanks for the post.
    Landing pages are something that I have not been very successful with. Tried to make some landing pages a couple of times, but ended up with nothing. Maybe I have to follow these stages and start again altogether and see how it goes.
    I think I need to make a landing page that convinces people that they need it and not focusing more on selling point.

    • says

      Landing pages aren’t about talent or innate ability — they’re about studying what’s worked before, and trying different approaches to see what works for your audience and what doesn’t. They’re much more about technique and testing than they are about “art.”

      Writing interesting content comes naturally to some people (although all of us can improve our abilities with work), but this kind of persuasive copywriting is something you have to study and work at.

  4. says

    Absolutely brilliant post ! I will keep these five stages in mind next time when I next try to make a landing page as a great landing page is crucial for a product or a newsletter. I am bookmarking this post, Demian.

  5. says

    Very interesting to say the least. I guess since I’m at the 3 year mark with my landing pages, it’s time for me to start doing my homework.

    Once more you have surpassed my expectations and I thank you for that. :)

  6. says

    Wonderful post! These are definitely stages that I will keep in mind when making my landing page. Thanks for the wonderful tips!

  7. says

    I just recently started reading Eugene Schwartz’s “Breakthrough Advertising.” I’m still in some of the early chapters, but it’s a fascinating read and the steps you’ve outlined certainly make a lot of sense. What’s even more fascinating is then looking back at some of the copy on the various Copyblogger products and seeing all of this in action.

  8. says

    Nice one!

    As Nick mentioned, test your landing pages. Even the slightest change, let’s say you change a ‘submit’ button color from blue to red, can impact your conversions. But you won’t know unless you conduct an A/B split test.

  9. Aaron says

    Great post. I’ve also heard the term, “awareness ladder.” It’s the first research question I ask myself or my client before I start a piece.

  10. says

    Hmmm. Writing for the sophistication level/message readiness of a whole market is a pretty broad job, no? New customers still arrive w/fresh ears. And targets are individuals after all.

    If I’m 24 and feeling stuck under my first 2K in credit card debt, I don’t really care why some people never get out of debt (Stage 5 glutted market suggested headline). I’ve been looking for a Stage 1 message about defeating my credit card debt with only a calendar and a spreadsheet.

    The late stage message is actually a mismatch now… and just because there are a lot of competitors in the debt counseling field doesn’t mean I’m looking for something other than what I’m looking for. MY problem is what it is.

    I think I’d use this lifecycle approach more for a long term sales program, taking a list through the stages. But I still believe you have to put your target audience before your market stage when it comes to your message.

    Naturally testing is the way to find out what works best, though, especially with landing pages. As always, do whatever works!

    • says

      Your market is your audience (and yes, you could say this is your list). It would be great if you could personalize a message for everyone in your market (for the 24 year old in $2,000 of debt, the 33 year old in $30,000), but it’s just not practical or affordable. This is why you go for the widest market possible.

      Now, if there was a large enough market of 24 year olds in $2,000 of debt, then you could dominate that niche — but you would have to do it with a message that singled them out.

  11. James says

    Awesome article. Gary Halbert always stressed that a copywriters job really is to be a student of markets.

    I always like to watch the weight loss industry as it is obviously very mature and all the promises have been made before, even in the mechanism stage.

    Have you heard about Insanity? Anyways, they are making millions now and definitely use Swartz’s last stage as they focus on the emotion of the consumer and their premise is “dig deeper.”

    Also, they make you work your ass off. So their product actually works. Which is a good reminder that if you make a promise, back it up with a great product. There is no trick or secret mechanism for their product or marketing copy which makes it believable as people have heard that stuff before.

    I’ve personally bought and used Premise. It’s a good product.

    I don’t use it anymore as my sites have got more complex, but the landing page I created with some of the graphics and elements in Premise, made me $5,000 last year in profit and sells about $500 per month (in profit, its a landing page for an eBook).

    Thanks for this article.

    • says

      James, a buddy of mine convinced me to try Insanity. I did it for one day. At a time when I was in very good shape (fresh off a year of marathon training, 60 push ups in one go — not so any more) … and I hated it. So, yeah, I’ve never done it before. 😉

      It is an interesting phenomenon, because like you pointed out — there are no short cuts. What I think there is — and the appeal — is an invitation to join an exclusive club of people who are insane. But awfully good looking, too. The same with PX90. Or the Tough Mudder races. It’s like joining a fraternity. And for a generation of Millenials and Gen Xers who sit on their bottoms all day, it’s adventure. That’s the only way I can explain our fascination with exercise programs that are designed to work out until you vomit. 😀

  12. says

    Wonderful article, I definitely agree a landing page is worth taking your time on. I will definitely remember these stages the next time I create a landing page, Thanks for sharing!

  13. says

    Ohoo my God! You guys have been rocking my world, with your very extensive and well content rich articles. In such a way that I feel like I have been Introduced to a new University degree. And thank you for this Ultimate Landing Page Guide.

  14. says

    Great stuff Demian. Going to have a play around with Premise this afternoon. Do you know any plugins that will work with Premise to also A/B test the headlines you pick? I remember one being available a while back but can’t remember what it’s called.

  15. says


    Thanks for breaking this down! I think I’ve internalized some of these concepts from studying and working with plenty of landing pages, but I’ve never been able to walk someone else through the process or describe why it works.

    You were able to put it into a 5-stage process. I appreciate it,


    p.s. Definitely picking up Premise before I write my next landing page. I’ve wasted way too much time trying to tweak landing pages on my own (and still not get them exactly how I want them.)

  16. says

    Hi – thanks for this great resource. My students are learning about SEO, and I’ve mentioned your article in my blog. Your insights on landing pages and their relationship to market cycle are very cool.

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