The Copyblogger - Brian Clark Interviewed

I have been a long time fan of Brian Clark. His blog, Copyblogger, is crisp, clear, and entertaining. He recently announced that he is a 2007 Bloggies award finalist.

Brian recently revised my salesletter, and I asked if he would be willing to do an interview. He said yes, and so it goes...

Is it possible to write great sales copy for something you are not interested in?

Certainly. Most copywriters do this, and they compensate by doing tons of research and putting themselves in the shoes of the prospective buyer. But I think it’s always much easier to sell something you believe in and have a personal affinity for.

Is it more important to understand the audience, author, or product when writing sales copy?

Audience always comes first. While having a strong understanding of everything else is important too, missing the mark with the audience is the number one reason why copy fails or underperforms.

I have been told that traditionally red is a great headline color for headlines. Why did you opt for blue on my sales letter? What about the Georgia font?

Red headlines have been used quite a bit for several years, and the reason why is because they tested better. There’s a growing backlash against a lot of copy elements that have been effective in the past, basically due to overuse and misuse. Plus, color and font selection are important to the overall impression you want to convey with your product and brand.

With SEO Book, I thought it was important that the sales letter have a more sophisticated presentation that matched the overall look of your site, as well as the stature your book has attained. You can’t mix in testimonials from the likes of Wharton School and MBA-level professors and Seth Godin on a cheesy page that screams hype. SEO is moving away from an Internet marketing tactic and becoming a business essential, and the presentation of your sales page should mirror that respectability.

You broke my sales letter down into a letter and FAQs and also had a mini sales letter which people see if they click an early buy now link. What is the purpose of doing that, and what effect does it typically have on conversion?

The purpose of the “offer landing page” is simply to quickly communicate the full offer to those who clicked through early in the copy, and to reinforce the offer to those that went deeper in. Typically you’ll have less people abandon the sale than if you sent them straight to a PayPal landing page.

How important are getting testimonials seen for making sales? What are the keys to getting them read?

Testimonials are crucial. They communicate crucial social proof of the value of your product and offer. However, just as with everything else, they have been abused and sometimes fabricated. I tried to tone down the presentation of the testimonials a bit, and chose people that had high credibility. We could probably test different approaches here, because it’s a tricky area that is nonetheless vitally important to conversion.

Your blog is one of my favorite to read. Many longstanding copywriters have started blogging, but come off as boring. How did you grow your reach so quickly?

Well, by applying copywriting techniques to blogging, I accomplished two things. One, I created my own little unique niche by bringing a new approach to both copywriting and blogging, and two, I got a bunch of generous bloggers as readers who helped spread the word. I owe it all to them.

When blogging, how important is it to give the perception of being open? How important is it to be easy to identify with?

Blogging is a lot like real life, which I guess is why we call this social media. If you’re not perceived as honest or worth associating with, people simply won’t bother with you.

What is the difference between writing traditional copy, writing a blog, and writing for social media like Digg?

Well, they all have one thing in common—the content has to provide beneficial value to the reader or it will fail. Traditional copy is designed to sell, writing for Digg is for traffic and links, and blogging for business is a combination of both. Beneficial value comes first, but all three types of writing will be more effective the more you connect with the reader on a personal level. Conversational copywriting has been around for longer than people think—some of the old school copywriters of the early 20th Century were masters at it.

With so many people writing sensationalistic headlines for social media, do you think social media has much of a life left to it? Do you see many bloggers invariably undermining their credibility by trying to get noticed too much?

A good headline makes a promise to the reader that the content delivers. Blow that, and you’ll damage your credibility. I mean, what’s the point of writing an attention-grabbing headline if you can’t follow through? Again, the competition for attention is increasing the quality of content overall, because quality content is what works. People who try to take shortcuts will fail.

When blogging, how do you balance writing for teaching vs writing for links vs writing for sales? Do you need to have much reach with a blog before you can have much an affect or significant profit?

Writing to teach can be writing for links and sales, if done correctly. As for reach vs. profit, it depends on what you’re selling. A realtor with a killer blog only needs to attract two or three clients per month to make a nice six figure income in most markets. Selling low-priced widgets requires more volume, as do advertising business models.

How often should I consider writing or rewriting my sales letter? How do I test the effectiveness of a rewrite?

I would never suggest rewriting something just for the sake of it, if it’s working. I was a bit perplexed by the recent copy overhaul to the 37signals home page. But it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of your market, so you can anticipate necessary changes before your sales slump. I think that’s where we were with your old page.

Testing is crucial. You should test the new sales page against the old, and then also consider testing certain elements within the winning page to see if it can be further optimized for conversion.


Thanks Brian. I just started split testing the new sales letter using Google AdWords, and we should have results by the end of February. If you want to learn more about copywriting check out Copyblogger today.

Published: February 1, 2007 by Aaron Wall in interviews


February 1, 2007 - 2:54am

Great interview. Brian Clark is my hero.

February 1, 2007 - 3:11am

Great interview with two of my favourite bloggers. Thanks.

February 1, 2007 - 4:31am

KFED is my hero, but Copyblogger is a VERY close 2nd :)

February 1, 2007 - 5:09am

Great interview Aaron and Brian.

Brian thanks for CopyyBlogger. I'm an avid reader and have been trying to apply a lot of your advice in my own writing. I think it's coming along slowly, but surely.

As I've picked up some tips I've also noticed how many of my favorite blogs follow the same advice. I assume many picked up the advice from you so thanks not only for helping me write better, but making many of the blogs I read more enjoyable.

February 1, 2007 - 5:16am

Excellent interview, Aaron. Brian is a great writer. He has a great a vocabulary and his written "voice" is very clear and readable. I am very much trying to improve the sound of my written voice. Thanks again!

February 1, 2007 - 7:01am

Your font size on your questions really distracts attention away from the responses. Just an observation. I'm a big fan of the site.

February 1, 2007 - 5:30pm

Good stuff guys, thanks for the info and keep up the good work.

February 2, 2007 - 2:40am

He is best guy, that I hear everyday

February 2, 2007 - 4:17am

Thanks Aaron, for posting the interview, and thanks for the kind comments.

February 2, 2007 - 6:46am

Aaron, great interview. Was this in person or just email?

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