Quick Tips

What Is a Swipe File? And Why Does Every Copywriter Need One?

A swipe file is a collection of memorable content you can use for copywriting ideas. Save emails, pages, ads, etc. in your “swipe file.” And refer to your swipes for inspiration (and in place of templates) when you start writing.

Do you look at the blank screen and feel unprepared to write copy?

Then you should add an organized swipe file to your copywriting toolbox.

I depend on my swipe file for the many copywriting projects I work on as a conversion copywriter at Copyhackers Agency.

This is how I set up my swipe file

  • I save screenshots of pages and ads in swipe folders within Google Drive, which I share with our team
  • I star emails in Gmail, which sends them to Airstory as cards I can reference later, when I’m writing in Airstory
  • I also have a bunch of swipe-file folders set up in Gmail, and I move different emails to those folders

If you’re starting out with an email swipe file, consider using these folder names in Gmail, to organize the emails you’ll be saving:

  • Email Swipes: Welcome emails
  • Email Swipes: Nurturing emails
  • Email Swipes: Sales emails
  • Email Swipes: Cart abandonment emails
  • Email Swipes: Upsells and cross-sells
  • Email Swipes: SDR / 1-to-1
  • Email Swipes: Other
  • Email Swipes: DIFFERENT
  • Email Swipes: BEST

What goes under “Different” and “Best”?

That’s where you’ll save emails that are, respectively, different from the norm or expectations – which may or may not be good – and extremely, extremely awesome.

Keep in mind: A swipe file is a collection of ads and content you like. You probably have no idea if it’s performing well. So use your swipe file as inspiration – not as a Bible.

Here is an example of a swipe file

Let’s say you need to write a homepage for a client in the fitness industry. Even with research in hand, you could use a little inspiration to get started.

A collection of fitness-specific landing pages, like this, would help you:

Example of a swipe file of fitness home pages

This is not the time to start looking for pages to swipe because I guarantee you will not find what you’re looking for.

You will, in fact, end up spending the next few hours sliding deeper and deeper into your search only to find yourself holding a serious opinion about the merits of a didgeridoo performance on Australia’s Got Talent.

How to start swiping 

Get yourself in the habit of collecting swipes regularly.

For example, start with websites and swipe the following pages (by taking screenshots of them):

  • Home 
  • Pricing 
  • Features 
  • Demo 
  • About
  • Blog
  • Resources
  • Customer success

Then you can further categorize your swipe files by industry.

You don’t have to start with websites, of course. You can start with landing pages, or thank you pages or opt-in pop-ups. It doesn’t matter. What matters is getting in the habit of taking screenshots and adding them to your swipe file.

Let me repeat that it’s the habit part that’s important here. Make it a part of your routine. Set reminders for yourself. The more you remember to do it, the easier it will become.

Swipe files are filled with work that may outperform the control or may not (you have no idea, usually)

When you consult your swipes, you likely won’t know whether or not it converted well – unless you’re adding swipes like this home page copy that beat the control or thiS SaaS onboarding sequence that beat the control.

The point is not to copy the swipe word for word, obviously. The purpose is guidance and learning:

  • How an argument is presented
  • How pricing levels are compared
  • How offers are positioned
  • What the tone and voice were
  • Etc.

It’s meant to help you find a starting point or give you ideas about what else you may want to include that bolsters the case you’re making with your copy.

Even if you know an email performed well – and you use it for inspiration – it doesn’t guarantee the email you write will perform well. 

Using swipes should be just one part of your overall copywriting process. A process that should also include research into the product or service, the audience and competitors. 

What details should you record in your swipe file?

So what should you be looking for in your swipes? – beyond types of pages, industries and categories?

If you want to dig a little deeper into what’s going on behind the copy (and I hope you do), then you could look for any of the following:

  • A big idea: Is there one? How is it threaded through the page or email campaign?
  • Messaging hierarchy: Can you follow a conversation? Or is it muddled?
  • Formula or frameworks: Is there one? Is it used well?
  • Voice of customer: Does it sound like something a customer would say? Or the way a marketer would talk?
  • Emotion: What emotion or outcome is being sold? Where is the emotion used?
  • Elements of persuasion: Is there social proof provided? Are testimonials supporting the conversion?

This is not a comprehensive list. If you’re a veteran copywriter, then you know there’s a long list of copywriting formulas and techniques you can look for and categorize. 

And if you’re new to copywriting, I’d suggest you supplement your swipe file by reading books about copywriting, or blogs about copywriting like Copyhackers (here’s a good place for newbies to start). Many resources will include samples of well-performing ads and sales pages you can learn from.

By collecting swipes, you’re filling your copywriting toolbox with inspiration and ideas that help you get started on a project. Because there’s not much that’s worse than staring at a blank screen and not knowing what to do first.

With a swipe file you can try out a few ideas and see what works best – it may take a few tries, but it’s still better than paralysis and anxiety.

Once you see how much a swipe file can help with your writing process, you’ll never want to write without one.

About the author

Lisa Pierson

Lisa Pierson is lead conversion copywriter and partner at Copyhackers Agency. She has five teenagers and is a long-distance runner...which makes her too tired to write a proper biography.

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