The Basics of Copywriting Psychology

Copywriting and the brain are star-crossed lovers

Harder than that godawful Romeo and Juliet thing, trust me. But if you want to go from being a good copywriter to a great copywriter (aka, one people will actually want to hire), you’re going to have to take a deep-dive into the world of how copywriting correlates with the brain.

Copywriting has a different effect on everyone. Most of this depends on their needs, interests, emotions, current state, etc. But if they’re searching for this one thing- this common denominator for a person in their said situation- that solution is what seals the deal.

This solution is the motherboard, otherwise known as the key to turning you or your client’s audience into customers.

The process of getting these people to turn from facts to figures is where psychology comes in. You don’t have to get yourself a degree to understand the basics of copywriting and its effect on our brains.

But Wait, There’s More

Copywriting is a delicate craft that isn’t to be taken lightly. Neither is the raw process of getting a human being to buy something you’re selling.

Humans are not easily one-over guinea pigs 95% of the time, so don’t be so arrogant as to think that copywriting psychology is a way to manipulate ‘dumb people’ into spending money.

You’re convincing intelligent people to take advantage of an opportunity.

The Psychological Backbone

Just as an author might plan out the whole story from the ending, you have to look at the end result of your copy.

Obviously, the grand finale is the reader clicking buy. But what are the milestones that got them to this point? What are the steps it took to get that little lightbulb in their head to go off?

Backtrack from the click. Mold everything like an author would their story. Figure out where to place the tripwires that make the dominos tumble.

Copywriting is like throwing rocks in the water. Figure out if the ripples will hit the banks before you throw in your stone.

A good way to do this is to first, research the audience you’re writing for. Second, figure out which category they fit into when it comes to the reason they want to buy.

Pulling from the excellent book Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards (not affiliated), a synopsis of why people spend money is often to:

  1. Make money
  2. Save money
  3. Save time
  4. Avoid effort
  5. Escape mental or physical pain

If you can tie one or more of these factors into your audience, it’ll be a lot easier to go from hook to click.

Now for the basic psychological pinpoints of copy. Pay attention!

The Hook

You will never be a great copywriter (at least, one that makes money) if you can’t get your reader ‘in the door’.

Your entire Landing Page or Newsletter could be absolutely perfect- except for that damn hook. If you can’t get your reader to take the first step, you’re in trouble.

A great hook with often evoke or offer:

  • Curiosity (Interested in…?)
  • Urgency (Time is running out…)
  • Alarm/Fear (This could happen/is happening unless…)
  • Knowledge (Did you know…?)

Practice killer hooks, and the rest of your copy will start writing itself.


At the beginning and end of every reader is a story. You have to craft your own story to really hit home with theirs. You’re basically creating a story arc for the reader.

What do all good stories, at the core, have?

  1. A protagonist (The reader)
  2. An obstacle (Their problem)
  3. A solution (What you’re selling them)

And within each story, there are a few common factors that make the story engaging and worthwhile to read.

  1. Humor (Conversational readability)
  2. Empathy (Relatability for the reader)
  3. Conflict + Rising Tension (Addressing the pain points)
  4. Climax (The selling point)
  5. The Ending (They’re buying)

Don’t write copy that doesn’t have a ‘plot’, and watch out for ‘plotholes’.


Don’t just tell stories- paint pictures. This can be done through the storytelling, but also in your basic structure.

You have the ability to give your readers an experience that plants itself in their brains. You can do this with the words you choose based on their power.

Anxiety, wealth, success, love, exclusive, breakthrough, money, satisfaction.

All of these words are examples of powerful words that evoke emotion, feeling, and interest in the reader.

Weave the negative ones into what the reader is experiencing now, and associate the positives with the steps towards your solution.

Get them to picture the meanings with their choices.

Audience Focus

Copywriting is never, ever about you, especially when you’re writing it for someone else’s audience.

Unless the copy you’re writing ties in with your own experiences to help the selling point, DO NOT make anything about you.

Your opinions, thoughts, interests, and direction are not what’s important here.

Harsh truth incoming. Strangers don’t give a damn about you. You can’t blame them. When’s the last time you truly, deeply cared about the stranger who wrote the social media copy you read today?

Focus on the reader. Make it solely about them (and possibly others in their same situation that help as testimonials).

They’re the main character in the grand scheme of the entire context.

Their problem, their struggle, their emotions, their solution.

You’re just the guy/gal getting it to them!


It’s common knowledge in the copywriting world that you don’t have to use big words or complex writing to get to the reader.

Keep things simple. Not because your audience is stupid- but because being causal is more effective.

No one likes being talked down to. No one likes things to be overly complex or pushy. Keep your copywriting straightforeward so the whole tone is more welcoming and easier to digest.

Pain Points

I mentioned this vaguely back in storytelling. This is one of the most important factors in copywriting, so drill it into your head!

What you’re selling is the solution to the reader’s problem. Pick apart your audience.

What are their frustrations?

Their fears, worries, discomforts, or roadblocks?

You’re the answer to their prayers. Pull them in with the reminder.


Don’t spend the majority of your copy without the promise that there’s a light at the tunnel. Because what you’re selling is the solution, focus on the positive outcomes of their decision to click buy.

The reader knows that things suck right now because of their back pain. You can trigger the pain point in your copy, but don’t overdo it. Bring the positives of the pain medication you’re offering them to the forefront.

Call To Action

Call to action comes in various forms. It’s basically the blatant ‘next step’ to what you want your reader to do. Without a CTA, your readers will either be left hanging as to what they need to do next, or you won’t trigger the response to their interest.

Don’t make them do the legwork. Place it right in front of them so all they have to do is click.

Some examples of CTA include lines such as:

  1. Buy Now
  2. Click Here
  3. Learn More
  4. Explore Now
  5. Act Now
  6. Subscribe
  7. Shop Now
  8. Show Me
  9. Let’s Go
  10. Up Next

These are only the surface. Remember, your call to action should be carefully placed and given a spotlight amongst the rest of your writing.

And don’t be sleazy or pushy. Provide the respect of valuable, catchy information first.


Study the brain and its correlation with copywriting and you’ll get miles further than the other guy.

You have to keep in mind that the people who will be reading your copy are real, raw human beings with a hierarchy of needs and a void in their life that needs to be filled.

You’re the one who’s going to help them fill that void, but you have to build a psychological foundation on your copy to guide them.

Study, study, study and then write even more than you studied.

Never stop learning and picking apart the brain!


If you’d like to connect further, follow me on Twitter.

Thank you for reading!

1 thought on “The Basics of Copywriting Psychology

  1. Pingback: The Traits of Sleazy Web Copy · Abigail Pollock

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