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How to write sales copy that appeals to goldfish

Ryan Parton, RP Copywriting

According to a recent study, our attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to just eight over the last 15 years. Goldfish, by comparison, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.

That’s right – your digital lifestyle has left you less focused than a goldfish.

So what’s a copywriter to do? Given that most people take the time to read only the first 30 to 40 words on a page, you need to work smarter to grab your reader’s attention and sustain it. (He says, grudgingly acknowledging that most of you have already stopped reading this.)

Let’s not panic – writing killer copy that gets noticed is totally doable. You just need to remember the Three E’s of Copywriting and four other little letters: AIDA.


The Three E’s of Copywriting

Entertain. Educate. Engage. Get rid of your warm-up preamble, charm your reader with catchy headlines (about goldfish if you can swing it) and wow them with fascinating subject matter. Get to the point, or they’ll be gone in eight seconds. That’s even shorter than the proverbial “Gone in 60 Seconds,” which incidentally is the longest I’ve ever managed to sit through a Nicolas Cage film. (With apologies to Lisa Graham).

This doesn’t necessarily mean your copy needs to be shorter – it just has to be smarter.


Write smarter copy with AIDA

In a past article, I introduced you to every copywriter’s bestie for life. Remember AIDA? She’s rad and helps you write copy that sells. I hope you’re still friends.

If you don’t remember AIDA (which is likely given that you have the attention span of a distracted goldfish), here’s a refresher:

Attention: Write a headline that jumps off the page. You want to pique the reader’s curiosity and get them moving down the page.

Interest: Hint at a benefit. Give the reader a reason to keep reading.

Desire: Dazzle the heck out of your reader, focusing on benefits rather than features. Counter any potential objections and make them want what you’re selling.

Action: Tell the reader what to do. They already want what you’ve got, so tell them how to get it. Even if you think it’s obvious, don’t make your reader connect the dots.

Follow these tips and your sales copy will sell the sizzle in eight seconds or less.

Ryan Parton is a professional copywriter and president of RP Copywriting. He’s also the executive editor of the Comox Valley Business Gazette. For a free consult, visit or call 250.702.1103.

No overrated actors were harmed in the making of this column.


Possible pullquote:

Most people take the time to read only the first 30 to 40 words on a page

Articles: 229