This week, the front page of Hacker News was filled to the brim with stories* about how much cold, hard cash startups have been earning:

Nathan Barry’s
$26,679 in 24 hours: Stats from my latest book launch

Patrick McKenzie’s
Bingo Card Creator (and other stuff) Year in Review 2012

Brennan Dunn’s
Why I Gave Up A Million Dollar Consultancy

Like it or not, people love to hear about the dirty, grimy – and decidedly sexy – topic of MONEY.

In his post, Patrick even references his interest in good ol’ fashioned money talk:

“When I started my business six years ago, I was greatly inspired by a few other folks who published the minutiae of their software businesses, particularly actual sales and expenses numbers.”

People like the topic of money.

We like to see dollar signs.

Money is one of many “sticky topics”. So, what’s a sticky topic? They’re topics you can address in headlines, value props and blog posts that people will want to read, recall and – if they’re done well – share.

…I’m sure the idea of money being a hot topic isn’t the year’s biggest revelation for you… But I’d put money on your site and blog being virtually VOID of words (and stories featuring words) like:




In fact, I’d go one further and say that, if the word “money” makes an appearance anywhere on your site, it appears either as Save Money on _____ or as _____ Saves You Money.

(And if it appears as “Save Time and Money”, go here and hang your head in shame.)

In the world of conversion – and in the related worlds of Traffic Generation, Content Marketing and SEO – sticky copy written on sticky topics is critical. Everything else is just published rough drafts.

Today, let’s take a look at 2 ways to make your website copy stickier so people actually READ it and RECALL it.

The First Way to Get Sticky: Write About a Sticky Topic

In my experience, I’ve found that the copy on a startup’s site isn’t the problem so much as the topic or subject the copy is addressing.

Most marketers, startup founders and copywriters are writing bland shizzle simply because they’re writing about a bland topic.

And, now, WAIT! Before you even go there, let me tell you this: your product or service is NOT bland by nature. You do not “have” to write about bland topics. I don’t care if you’re a consultant on lining credenza drawers or the purveyor of grout paint, your subject is NOT bland. I mean, I wrote copy for freakin’ QuickBooks Accounting Software for 5 years! I’ve heard ev-er-y-thing under the sun about how “hard it is” to make “boring” software “sound sexy”. And, as a result, I now firmly believe that anyone in a position to message a product should be demoted to Assistant to the Ditch Digger if they believe that the product they’re promoting is boring.

It’s not boring! You’re just lazy!

…That’s my rant. K, on with the show.

Every piece of content that seems boring can be turned on its head to be interesting enough to be sticky. For example, QuickBooks isn’t simply accounting software; it’s the gateway to a world of money – organized money, invoiced clients, taxes never overpaid, expenses tracked to the penny so you keep every dime, and delicious pie charts showcasing where you’re making the most money (so you can make even more!).

So, how can you take your product, service or app… and position it as something sticky?

Check out these sticky topics. At least one of them CAN work on your home page, and ALL of them can work in your blog posts.

(Based on swipe files & top posts, tweets, etc.)

How much money you can make

How much money you can lose

The fall of someone great (or any form of schadenfreude)

The fall of someone seemingly terrible

Crises narrowly averted

Public fights, battles or wars

Public displays of affection

Unbelievable results achieved easily

“Learn from my mistakes”

(Sample headlines for landing pages or blog posts.)

Our Clients Saved $994K in 2012

Every Year, 80% of Americans Overpay on Insurance

Has Optimizely Annihilated Adobe Test&Target?

The IRS Never Saw Tax Software Coming

Find Your Next Job Now – Before You Get Sacked

Oprah Won the Diet Battle… But Did She Lose the War?

MailChimp Loves Unbounce

One Project Management App Can Save You $60K

3 CRO Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Way Numero 2: Turn Your Existing Boring Words into Sticky Phrases

K, so you’ve selected a sticky topic from the list above. You know people are going to want to read about what you’re saying… but now you have to make sure that, once those eyes land on your page, they keep moving over each and every word, paying attention along the way.

We need to use sticky copy to achieve that goal.

While a sticky topic is What you say, sticky copy is How you say it. It’s the words you use. It’s the tone. It’s the length of each sentence. It’s the rhetorical devices used. It’s the formatting. …It’s all of those things, combined.

For now, let’s talk about the words you’re using. Once you know what words to change, it’s easy to go ahead and do that on your site ASAP. (That’s foreshadowing, BTW. Guess what action I’m going to ask you to take at the end of this post!)

First, sticky words grab you and hold you. They force you to pay attention. That means they are usually:

Unfamiliar words, or words rarely used in the context of site copy or blog posts

Interesting analogies, similes or metaphors

Unusual-looking ‘words’, such as numerals instead of spelled-out numbers

Variations on curse words

Non-offensive slang words

You should also think about the way the words look on the page and choose words accordingly – always with the first goal of getting the stickiest words noticed. By this I mean that you will want to take a note from such classic writers as Samuel Johnson and Samuel Pepys, and interject long, interesting words in the midst of short, plain ones:


How to Host a Wedding on a Budget


How to Host a Ridiculously Jaw-Dropping Wedding on a Budget

The goal is to introduce a little healthy friction – but not the usability kind, which is bad friction – into your copy. Get your visitors’ eyes to slow down as they work over lengthier phrases – and then let them fly through a handful of easier words before slowing ’em down again. Exercise their eyes. Make them take notice. Compel them to slow down, pay attention and commit your messages to memory… but don’t slow them down too much or for too long, or you may lose them. (Ah, finding the balance! What fun.)

So now, let’s look at how to turn boring words and phrases into sticky words and phrases.


Save Money

Better Manage Your Projects

Write Sticky Copy


Save Cold, Hard Cashola

Manage the Hell Outta Your Projects

2 Easy Ways to Write Sticky Copy Now


 Save Like Scrooge… Before He Went All Soft on Us

Project Management So Good, They’ll Call You “The Taskmaster”

Don’t Be a Freakin’ Wallflower! Write Sticky Copy That Gets Noticed

Now It’s Your Turn – For Real

Open your site in a new window. Just do it – trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Consider the headline of your home page. Are you sacrificing sticky copy just to keep your headline short? Are you telling yourself that your particular audience won’t respond well to the stickiest kind of copy? …Do you realize that the assumptions you’re making may be holding back the performance of your site as a sales tool?

Play around with your headline – but don’t go into your CMS or code to do it. Instead, use this bookmarklet to edit your headline without committing to any changes. Replace your existing headline with a handful of headlines on sticky topics using sticky copy, as outlined above. Let long headlines go long. Let slang words and pseudo-swear words, like “screw”, “piss” and “shizzle”, make their way into your copy. Really, really push your comfort level. And don’t let your assumptions about what your visitors will tolerate get in the way.

Then… delete every headline you wrote. Get rid of ’em all!

And take an objective look at your control/current headline. …How do you feel about it now? Is it doing as much work as it should? Is it sticky? …Is this the year you actually write copy that is going to make a difference and sell more stuff for you? NOW, try to recall one of the headlines you wrote and deleted. If they’re sticky, you should be able to recall them… and replace your boring headline with one of ’em.

Watch Me Edit Boring Copy Into Sticky Copy (5:54 Video)

Throughout 2013, I’m planning to end every post with a recording of me putting what I preach into practice on one or more sites. Sometimes they’ll be sites you ask me to review (so email me if that’s what you’d like), and other times I’ll just randomly choose them.

Check this video out, and leave a comment to let me know if it helps and if you want me to keep doing this, k?

Happy New Year,

* I hope Nathan, Patrick and Brennan won’t mind me adding that they are all Copyhackers readers. 🙂