Dealing with citations when you're a direct response copywriter

About 7 years ago, some intrepid copywriter had the brain fart of inserting medical research citations into their alternative health copy.

Citations are the superscripts which denote the specific study where the copywriter pulled the claim, statistics or benefit.

Looking back, it was a brilliant idea and in the cases where I tested, while sometimes conversions were suppressed, most of the time, it boosted conversions anywhere from 3 to 15%.

But at the time? I had strong doubts.


Because while superscripts made the copy more believable/credible because they’re implied proof element, they could also disrupt the flow of the reader.

Think about it:

Someone’s reading your copy and they want to know where you got the information for a specific claim, so their curiosity takes hold and now they’re off running down some research rabbit hole–INSTEAD of continuing to be persuaded by your compelling copy.

Of course, that would be bad and show up in suppressed conversions.

So over the years, while I know they work, I’ve tried to temper going too far overboard with citations.

But a recent experience has given me cause to change my perspective yet again.

You see, normally I insert somewhere between 5 and 10 citations in a sales letter or VSL just for show, documenting the studies where I pulled the claims.

But now I’ve decided on doing it with every single claim, benefit and statistic.

I’ve done this before when the client has specifically asked but like I said, I haven’t done it all the time for the sake of readability.

Why the change of course now?

In a word, lawyers.

In my experience, lawyers have been pretty incredulous with the research I uncover.

Actually, they’re blown away.

So much so, when some of them review the copy, if I don’t have a strong claim cited, they think they’ve caught me in some fib that I’m trying to sneak past them.

They’re eager to point it out to the client, thus earning their keep in the client’s eyes. 😉

However, when I produce the research documenting the claim, they’re still incredulous–and they read the research studies themselves to see if I’m doing any wordplay or copywriting trickery.

All in all, it’s a big waste of time on everybody’s part.

So lately, I’ve just decided stick ALL THE CITATIONS in the copy and let the chips fall where they may.

In weird a way, I consider the lawyers’ questions as a sort of backhanded flattery.

Like “This claim can’t really be true, can it?”

I know I’ve done good if they try to call me out.

But I’ve decided if I cite comprehensively, they can just follow the breadcrumbs back to the studies to see for themselves.

For instance, there is an incredible yet overlooked herb that I was recently writing about. I had discovered scientific research that clearly stated the herb outperformed its pharmaceutical counterpart for a specific ailment.

(If you write copy in the alt health space you know, that’s like hitting the jackpot.)

At the time, I didn’t insert the corresponding citation into the copy and I should have anticipated this… I got pushback from the lawyer when I submitted the copy.

This scenario has started happening more than I would like. I’ll uncover some great research and the lawyers push back and say something to the effect of “you can’t say this.”

Then I send over the links to the relevant research to back up the claim, and what do I get back?


So even though citations may disrupt the readability somewhat, I’m going to start inserting them next to every claim, benefit and statistic.

And it’s not any more work really. I’m doing the research anyway, right?

It’ll save a ton of time going back and forth with the lawyers.

And who knows? We may even get more of a boost in conversions. 😉

Now if you’ve got testing results which either confirms or contradicts what I’ve said, or even just a comment, I’d love to hear it.

Just go ahead and hit the reply.

Nil Obstat (“Let nothing stand in your way”),


P.S. Years ago, I would analyze Eugene Schwartz ads for fun.

It’s a great copywriting exercise.

I bought some pdf of Eugene’s ads and I dissected them sentence by sentence, looking for what made them so persuasive.

In one exercise, I’d take a highlighter and highlight every single promise.

You’d be amazed at how many promises Eugene packed into a single full page ad.

Sometimes I counted as many as 25 different promises!

Now imagine, taking those 25 promises and inserting a superscript next to each one of them.

You can see how they could potentially disrupt the readability. Could prove intimidating.

But it could just as easily go the other way–providing overwhelming proof of the efficacy of the product.

So we’ll test and then we’ll know.

Autoplay Revisited

“Turning autoplay on always improves conversions.”

That’s what the gurus say.

And then one day working with one of my clients, we did something stupid.

We tested the idea.

And what do you know?

In our case, we discovered turning autoplay on suppressed conversions!

The tactic of turning autoplay on as a way to boost conversions has been around just as long as the infamous Belcher button.

It was a quick way to bump conversions.

Basically what it means is when a visitor hits the video sales letter page, the VSL AUTOMATICALLY starts playing.

Common knowledge says turning autoplay on improves engagement and conversions because the visitor is forced to watch the video.

They don’t have to click “play”.

Logically, it makes sense.

Except when you test it and then you find out differently.

In light of my client’s experiment, we have a new, perhaps different theory.

Our theory is that when autoplay is turned off, visitors are not shocked by the audio suddenly starting. It’s not disruptive.

The ones interested click “play” because they want to watch the VSL of their own volition.

It isn’t being forced on them.

They watch because THEY WANT TO WATCH and this improves engagement, and ultimately conversions.

44% engagement was a shocker to me. Which is why I wrote this email.

The non-autoplay conversions are more than double autoplay.

Now, am I advocating you turn autoplay off?


I am advocating you TEST IT yourself.

The hardest part about this business is that we don’t know how high is high.

We start where we start, and then we try to figure out how to improve.

We struggling trying to discover out what’s suppressing conversions.

The thing that absolutely kills you though is MAKING ASSUMPTIONS.

This is why it’s so important to keep an open mind and test–even those very things you have a particular affection towards.

In other words, sometimes it may be necessary to kill your babies.

So try the experiment yourself and let me know what happens, ok?

I’d love to see if this is a sea change in overall behavior of visitors.

Nil Obstat (“Let nothing stand in your way”)


P.S. FYI: There’s another thing you’ll notice about the charts.

The smooth versus rough disengagement over time.

By the way, where you see that first big drop off in engagement?

That’s the first call to action. People are clicking through to the order form. 🙂

They’re watching because they want to watch–and more of them are buying. Almost double.

Sometimes, you really have to study these charts to glean the insights.

Good luck with yours and if you need help, just reach out. – Matt

My first copywriting hack of 2019

Ok, so the holidays are over, the kids went back to school yesterday, it’s January the 8th and I’m back in the saddle.

How were your holidays?

I hope they were good. 

Maybe you took an Amish day or two and shut down all the technology and gave yourself a breather from social media?

I hope you also got to spend time with the family, no matter how annoying they can be at times.

It’s weird how when you stick people with the same DNA in the same house together for any period of time there’s this “magnets effect” that happens.

At times, there’s this intense, loving bonding. Then at other times, there’s a repulsion where you can’t get far enough away from each other. 😛

It’s funny, because other than the occasional fight over the video game controllers, the kids don’t seem to have this problem.

The biggest thing I hope is that you took some time for yourself and de-stressed, unwound and got your balance back.

It’s weird. Especially when you’re writing copy. 

Sometimes, maybe most times, you do your best work when you don’t have any stress bearing down on you.

Of course, there are other times when intense pressure to get something done or achieve a specific result carries the day.

But for the most part, I think killing yourself to get the job done is overplayed.

And that goes triple if you’re using alcohol or drugs to get the job done.

I know old timers will tell you tales of their copywriting exploits when they had a bottle of wine in hand to help conjure the muses.

But we know now in 2019, that’s unsustainable.

You’re better off factoring in some free time to unwind into your day rather than plowing through it with a bottle of Jack at your side.

It seems my research work these days is always uncovering strange connections between disease and stress.

In other words, you don’t just get sick for no reason. What’s usually the catalyst? 

A bout of stress.

Now this is a hard lesson to learn. Or a habit to break, even for me.

I used to have this mantra I say to myself when things got intense…

“The more pressure I can take, the more pressure I can take.”

And then I’d look at the most successful men and women in business and think about all the pressure those guys were under.

If they could handle all that pressure of running a Fortune 500 business, surely I could.

Now, I have nothing against hustling.

Hustling is the art of getting stuff done. And it’s essential to business.

Instead, I’m talking about stress. Worry. Concern over things that are pretty much out of your control or influence.

When it comes to stress, the biggest thing you can do for your health in 2019 is get some quality sleep every night.

I read somewhere that “sleep is your greatest physician.”

Based upon my scientific research, I truly believe that.

(I’ve done multiple offers over the years for infoproducts which helped people get a rejuvenating sleep. The success stories are phenomenal.)

And yet as a culture, we’re perpetually in a sleep deficit.

But I’ll tell you a personal secret.

Sleep is an incredible source of copywriting inspiration.

I can’t tell you the number of times I go to bed with a marketing problem or a challenge… and wake up with the perfect bit of copy or a novel solution for it.

So much so, I keep a notebook.

Not to mention all the business generating ideas I wake up with for my clients. I seem to throw them off like sparks in the morning.

In the afternoon? Not so much. 😉

But the morning is incredible.

My point is in business, there’s a line of thinking that says “sleep is for wimps.”

Like if you sleep, then you’re not serious about success.

I take a contrarian approach.

Your body needs sleep. Give it as much sleep as your body needs, when it needs it.

In Victorian times, Charles Dickens talked about a “second sleep”. A second time to sleep each day.

I say if you need it, then take it. Your body will thank you. I believe your business will prosper as well.

And you’ll write better copy.

Consider this my first copywriting hack for 2019.

And it’ll lead to a better quality of life. Besides making making you less grumpy and more agreeable. 🙂

Nil Obstat (“Let nothing stand in your way”) and Have a Stress-free, Prosperous New Year,


Jason Capital

So I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this before but one of my clients is the dating guru, Jason Capital.

His enterprise probably grosses several million dollars a year. The majority of it from ClickBank offers.

I’ve worked with him since the beginning with his flagship program “Make Women Want You”.

Which 7 years later still continues to sell. (Yes, it is a ClickBank offer as well.)

Except for a brief period of time, I’ve written pretty much all his sales letters (everything except for his kick-ass daily emails and videos.)

So forever Jason has been wanting me to come to one of his events in the States and “schmooze” with his peoples.

Maybe do an off-the-cuff copywriting training for his high-ticket mastermind.

And forever, I’ve declined.

Between the jet lag, being away from my family and out of my element, as well as the frenetic environment, again, it just isn’t my cup of tea.

I must have turned him down at least 5, maybe 10 times.

But you gotta give it to him, the man is nothing if not relentless.

So a couple weeks ago, in the face of a first class, all expenses paid trip to Orange County, CA, land of beautiful people, I caved.

How could I say no?

And so I land in OC, and I set up shop in a 5-star hotel just outside Orange County Airport right next to Jason’s room.

And I have to admit…

The whole event was exhilarating.

Anyway, one of Jason’s associates is none other than Bedros Keuilian, the famous fitness business guru.

He was there doing a presentation.

Afterwards, I introduced myself to him because I was thinking about pitching an idea.

And once he heard my name he said…

“You’re Matt O’Connor, THE copywriter? You may not know this but you are very highly spoken of.”

And I was kinda aware because a few of Bedros’ clients are my ClickBank copywriting clients as well. 😉

Word gets around and like I said, it’s a small universe.

Anyway, here’s the upshot:

Remember that ClickBank Copywriting course I spoke of earlier?

Well, I’ve negotiated an agreement with ClickBank University to offer it exclusively on my Conversion Gods website along with the original copy and content.

We haven’t changed a thing.

There are 77 extremely good reasons you should have this course.

So if you have a desire to write winning ClickBank copy, if a Top 10 VSL or sales letter is your ultimate freedom-giving goal, I encourage you to snap it up while you can.

Yes, FOMO (fear of missing out) is alive and strong and you need to follow your gut and get it while you can.

–>HURRY: Get The ClickBank Official Copywriting Guide

You’ve got to appreciate, I truly am reluctant doing stuff like this.

Candidly? I feel like I’m ignoring my clients.

So I don’t know how much of it I can stand before I redirect my efforts.

But if you want to learn how to write wicked compelling ClickBank copy–the same copy that’s used in the coveted Top 10 of ClickBank’s marketplace–I strongly encourage you to get my guide now.

–>HURRY: Get The ClickBank Official Copywriting Guide

It’s a measly $17! Your latte habit probably costs more than that.

There’s no risk. ClickBank’s refund policy is in full force.

You have nothing to lose.

Go for it and thank you for being a part of my tribe.

Talk soon.

Nihil Obstat (“Let nothing stand in your way”),


P.S. If nothing else, check out the sales letter as a learning experience. A couple of the tactics we used tripled conversions.

–>HURRY: Get The ClickBank Official Copywriting Guide

Sneaky Kindle Copywriting Secret

Do you want to know what the most referenced verse in all the Bible is?

Of course, you don’t.  😉

But YOU WILL appreciate how I know.

You see, in your Kindle you have the ability to highlight important paragraphs and phrases for later access.

You see this info for your own purposes, but more importantly, Amazon sees this. Better still, they have a feature that allows you to see the highlighted aggregations OF EVERYBODY ELSE who’s read the book.

So what’s the most highlighted verse in the Bible?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6–7

(It’s advice I should probably take.)


So let me give you a quick example of how I use this.

I’m writing a brain supplement offer right now and there’s a book on Amazon called Neurogenesis.

It’s a great book if your want to grow your brain.

So what’s the most highlighted paragraph in the book?

Whoa. 186 people took the time to highlight.

That’s pretty cool. I’ll bet I can weave that into the copy, for sure.

Here’s a few more…

Are you starting to see a pattern?

Readers don’t care about the science, they don’t care about how the brain works…

They just want to know how to boost their brains.

Let this be a lesson in Schwartz-like benefit-based writing.

It’s amazing to me that we have tools like this today that allows us to crawl into the minds of our readers and have a look around.

Go ahead and try it for yourself. And if you don’t have a Kindle, get one!

One Time Offers

Been writing One-time Offers for the past few days for a new ClickBank launch.

Just as a quick reminder, here’s some must-includes when writing the copy.  

No matter whether it’s for an OTO text letter or video sales letter, always…

  1. Make sure that little progress bar is at the top of the page to let them know they’re not in OTO hell…
  2. For highest conversions, use a benefit-based headline rather than a curiosity-based headline…
  3. In the first One Time Offer, pre-frame the entire OTO sequence as a series of “upgrades” or “accelerations”…
  4. Thank them for their initial purchase…
  5. Tell them the OTO complements their original purchase, that it’s an essential piece to complete the solution puzzle…
  6. Make sure there is little functional overlap between the frontend offer and the OTO…
  7. Give one strong reason why you’re making this offer right now…
  8. The best converting One Time Offers I’ve found tell people the OTO ACCELERATES results…
  9. No matter what, always contrast the price (I realize this can be difficult on ClickBank, but there are ways to get the job done)…
  10. Strongly reaffirm the guarantee…
  11. Make sure it REALLY IS a one time offer, that the price/product is only available this one time…
  12. Mild but still snarky “No, thanks” links work better than bland ones…
  13. The “pile on”: Ever see OTOs where they offer 10 or 20 reports for one ultra-low price?  These work like gangbusters. Two keys: The value is over the top and the titles of each of the reports have to crush it.

Like that? I hope it was helpful.

Nihil Obstat (“Nothing stands in your way”),


36 “My Life in Advertising” Ideas to Live By

Normally, I spend my days knee deep into “what’s working now.”

But occasionally reviewing the classics has always been rewarding for me. It never fails that I get an idea or two or three I can use on a project.

Today, I want to share the Cliff notes for Claude Hopkins’ My Life in Advertising.

I know several world class marketers who re-read the book every year. (At least they say they do!)


1. All advertising proves that people will do little to prevent troubles.

They do not cross bridges in advance. However, they will do anything to cure troubles which exist.

2. Superlative claims do not make a difference. To say that something is “The best in the world” makes no impression whatever.

Offer specifics–figures, facts, data.

3. Saying that a halogen lamp gives more light than other lamps is weak copy. Saying that it gives 3.5X the light of incandescent lamps is far superior.

4. Every ad should tell a complete story. It should include every fact and argument found to be valuable. Why? Most people read a story just once, as they do the news. There is no reason why they should read it again. So we need to get in that one reading every convincing fact.

5. Every effort to sell creates corresponding resistance. (It’s our job as copywriters and marketers to overcome this resistance. How? Quality content.)

6. The only way to sell is in some way to seem to offer superior service.

7. People follow the crowds. It is hard for them in most things to analyze reasons and worth, so they accept the verdict of the majority.

8. Boasting is the last thing people want to hear.

9. The “free” offer cheapens a product.

10. There is a certain resistance when we ask people to afterward pay for a product which came to them first as a gift.

11. It doesn’t pay to give either a sample or a full-size package to people who do not request it.

12. Products handed out without asking lose respect. (Take note U2)

13. We all of us love to study people and their accomplishments.

14. Stop offering samples to prospects who are uninterested.

15. Offer samples only to prospects who take some action to acquire them.

16. Remember that you are the seller. You are trying to win customers. Then make a trial easy to the people whom you interest. Don’t ask them to pay for your efforts to sell them. (Although I love a self-liquidating offer.)

17. Remove all restrictions and say, “We trust you,” and human nature likes to justify that trust.

18. Serve better than others, offer more than others, and you are pretty much sure to win.

19. Ask a person to take a chance on you, and you have a fight. Offer to take a chance on him, and the way is easy.

20. Analyze your offer until you’ve made sure that your customer had the best end of the bargain.

21. Argue anything for your own advantage, and people will resist. Seem to unselfishly consider your customers’ desires, and they will naturally flock to your offer.

22. Curiosity is a strong factor in human nature, and especially with women. Describe a gift, and some will decide that they want it, more will decide that they don’t.

23. People are crying out for new ways to make money. Discover those ways, find out how to promote them, and you will have offered ten times the work one man can ever do.

24. People like to deal with men whose names are connected with certain accomplishments.

25. Platitudes and generalities make no more of an impression than water on a duck’s back.

26. We rarely decide for ourselves, because we don’t know the facts. But when we see the crowds taking any certain direction, we are much inclined to go with them.

27. When we make an offer one cannot reasonably refuse, it is pretty sure to gain acceptance.

28. No other activating factor compares with curiosity. (Can you say “clickbait?” Claude knew this decades ago.)

29. We are influenced by our surroundings.

30. The road to success lies through ordinary people.

31. We do best what we like best.

32. A good product is its own best salesman.

33. Selling without samples is many times as hard as with them.

34. Get the leading men first. They will bring in the others. (I call this the big dog strategy.)

35. The man who works twice as long as his fellows is bound to go twice as far, especially in advertising.

36. My words will be simple, my sentences short. Scholars may ridicule my style.

Nihil Obstat (“Nothing stands in your way”),


P.S. Here’s the PDF if you’re curious:

Enjoy and good luck in your marketing and copywriting efforts.

10 Things Your Copywriter Is Dying to Hear You Say

Copywriters crave more than just a pay-check from you. They want to feel valued, appreciated and respected as well.

Here are 10 rather easy ways to do it…

  1. 1. “I just PayPaled you funds. It’s a lot, but man, you crushed it. Keep up the great work.”

Of course, it’s about the money.

Always has, always will be.

However. IF you want to get the best out of your copywriter, it’s important to appreciate they are inspired when they are personally acknowledged.

Heap on the praise privately, and your copywriter will sing your products praises publicly.

  1. “We have another project for you.”

Talk can be cheap, but when it’s followed up with the opportunity to be part of a new project, watch how he/she ratchets up their copy.

It’s an indirect way of getting best efforts out of your copywriter and boosting conversions.

  1. “What can we do to help you knock it out of the park?”

Copywriters sometimes feel alone in their endeavor to lift your sales.

Words like these, even if they are just token gestures, mean a lot.

You may not be able to help, but the takeaway is you’re WILLING to help.

And if you *can* help, all the better!

  1. “Thank you.”

There is not one person who doesn’t want to be thanked for their efforts.

The trick here is to appreciate a copywriter, even if it’s for something they are already being paid to do.

When you get a sequence of emails from your copywriter, rather than just compensating, it’s always nice to send a verbal acknowledgement.

It’s your chance to be creative and score some major points.

“Dude, you crushed it! Thanks so much.”

“I’m glad we have you writing for us.”

“This VSL rocks! It’s really compelling!”

Words like these go a long way.

  1. “Hey, everyone–listen to what Matt our copywriter just did!”

You see this on Facebook occasionally. It’s happened to me a few times, and I can tell you it feels great.

Public acknowledgement of your copywriters success makes other marketers envious you’ve dialed in your copy.

And candidly, it makes other copywriters a tad envious the copywriter has an incredible client like you.

  1. “What do you think?”

EVERYONE likes to be asked their opinion, yes?

Your copywriter, because of his marketing chops, silently believes he should be consulted on major strategy decisions.

You may or may not agree. And that’s your right.

Whether you use his ideas is up to you, but it’s always nice be asked.

  1. “That last promotion you wrote was a dud. It’s ok though, we all make mistakes. How do we turn this around?”

Hey, no one bats 1000.

But if you’re cool about an occasional dud, your copywriter will appreciate you all the more.

And work even harder next time.

That’s not to say your copywriter deserves a free pass. But consider the fail could be because of the traffic or the offer or some other misfire in the campaign.

  1. “I’m leaving the copy in your capable hands–I’m stepping back.”

Copywriters are notorious for desiring no one change their work.

Personally, I don’t care, but others think every word they write is inviolate.

What this statement implies is that you TRUST your copywriter to make the right decisions.

  1. “I just found out my friend, Jeff needs a copywriter. I’m referring him to you. Take care of him, ok?”

YOU NEED TO KNOW to copywriters, referrals are a blessing.

Nothing else you could do beats them.

And if you’re an influencer, all the better.

Referrals are a demonstration you are pleased with your copywriter’s work.

Keep’em coming.

  1. “I’m amazed at your copywriting skills, your copy just sings!”

Say any of these words and watch your copywriter beam with pride.

Then watch your sales soar.

Nihil Obstat (“Nothing stands in your way”),


PS: If I missed any, let me know. I’ll give you full credit if/when I repost.

Black Friday Promo Template

Today I saw all the retailers rolling out their holiday ads.

It inspired me to write this.

Be forewarned: You don’t have much time.

I encourage you to give serious consideration to conducting a Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale.

NOW’S THE TIME to figure it out and get your copywriter to work.

To take best advantage, treat Black Friday as a true campaign. Not just one or two emails.

For instance, here’s one template I use:

1) During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I’m dropping hints about a Black Friday sale.

Once a day, in every email we send out, I let them know.

2) Then Thanksgiving day and night, I’m giving people a serious heads up. Benefits and opportunity galore.

Yeah, two emails get sent on Thanksgiving.

3) Then on Black Friday, we start early. 6AM east coast time, we launch. Maybe even 5AM to beat the other marketers to the punch.

You should know, the offer should be pretty amazing. Like they’d have to be an idiot, not to take you up on it.

In other words, don’t be a Scrooge.

It also helps to engineer some scarcity into the offer. Some sort of an inventory count down.

“Only 3 left!”

Then another couple of emails alerting people to the status that day of the sale.

4) Then, for whatever the reason you want to give them, keep the momentum going.

Don’t shut the sale down until Sunday night. On Saturday and Sunday, send out two emails a day, morning and night.

I’d structure them as “updates.” Again, keep the scarcity going.

5) Then Sunday night close it all down. Tell them thanks for playing.

6) Then Monday, start it all up again. 🙂

This time with a DIFFERENT, possibly even better offer.

Note: Always keep the emails fresh and original. Don’t drone on, like some marketers do.

Put some creative muscle into it. They don’t have to be long, but they DO have to be different.

And don’t be boring.

Now, about your offer:

It should be an offer Walmart shoppers would be willing to throw hands for.

You know what I’m talking about.

It should be a steal.

Don’t be stingy. No, you won’t cannibalize your sales.

In fact, you’ll be seen in a very admirable light if you position your offer as such.

(I’ve seen examples where it could be the start of a funnel process.)

In the past, what works best are high ticket offers. Things the majority of your list couldn’t afford anyway.

Black Friday gives you a reason to slash prices–and you won’t look desperate. You’ll look like a hero.

Now, you can add caveats, like:

“This doesn’t including monthly webinars, or one-on-one coaching or email interaction. This is bare bones.”

You make the rules, whatever works. But that’s the template I’ve seen work over the past five years.

Get into the holiday spirit and err on being generous.

Try it and let me know how it works for for you.

Nihil Obstat (“Nothing stands in your way”),



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