I first came across AIDA in copywriting college. It’s an acronym that stands for attention, interest, desire and action, which are the fundamental components of a direct response sales letter.

The assignment was to write sales letters asking for charity donations using AIDA.

Since then I’ve been using AIDA throughout my career. It’s so versatile I’ve been able to apply it to social media posts, online ads, landings pages, even content writing etc.

I’m going to take some time and share with you how best to use AIDA. I’ve collected some real life examples and use-cases to help me explain.

The AIDA Principle Defined

AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action.

The goal of the AIDA in marketing is to do the following:

  • Grab the attention of readers and hook them like a fish.
  • Create a point of interest for them to continue reading.
  • Display a benefit which creates desire.
  • Finish it with a call to action.

Simple and straightforward, right? Not quite.

There’s many copywriting formulas out there. But AIDA takes some time to develop.

AIDA can be used in many different ways. You can use the whole principle in a single headline, or throughout an entire sales letter or blog post. So it takes time to truly master.

The best approach is to understand the 4 fundamentals of this technique and then mix it into your own copywriting in creative ways.

This brings me to the first part of AIDA in copywriting…

Attention

Attention is probably the most underrated currency in business.

If nobody sees your content, if nobody reads your copy, they won’t know you exist.

And it’s hard to make money if no one knows who you are.

That’s why hooking the reader in is the first step to using AIDA.

There’s different approaches to getting people’s attention. The first of which is by creating a great headline. Remember that approximately 80% of people read only the headlines.

Effective headline copywriting strategies include:

  • Use urgency: Urgency implies that the reader needs to take action or they will miss out on something worthwhile. It has the potential to improve the click-through rate and readership because of that. “5 Insanely Good Marketing Trends You Aren’t Using” is an example of a headline that includes urgency.
  • Make it ultra-specific: Vague headlines are boring and will put readers to sleep. Be as specific as possible to excite them to read your content. Think “How to DO SEO in 2020” versus “How to do SEO Like The Pros in 5 Easy Steps”.
  • Cite specific numbers: This plays off the last strategy because numbers make headlines much more interesting. Imagine an article titled “How I Made a Living From Writing” versus “How I Made $96,388 This Year From UX Writing”. The latter is much sexier.
  • Define the audience: Who are you writing for? Speak directly to this segment in the headline by mentioning them. An example of this would be “4 Tips For CMO’s to Scale Campaigns”.
  • Add emotional words: The purchasing process and other things in business are mostly emotional. You can attune to this and get people’s attention by leveraging emotionally charged words and phrases.

I love Vice magazine and their YouTube channel, so I wanted to include them as an example.

Take a good look at their headlines:

Vice headlines

Do you see that? They’re amazing at grabbing attention.

I don’t know or care about “The Creator of the Shitty Media Men List” but now I’m intrigued!

Better yet, AIDA can be applied to the introduction of your copy.

Look how legendary writer Gary Halbert gets your attention in the opening line of this sales letter he wrote:

Gary Halbert letter about mailing

By promising that his idea is worth thousands of thousands of dollars and many people are using it, the reader’s eyes become glued.

You can create attention within the beginning of an article or any other form of content by:

  • Asking a question the reader will find relatable.
  • Citing an interesting statistic or piece of data that relates to the topic.
  • Using a case study that proves your point.
  • Making a bold statement.
  • Addressing the reader right away by using words like “You”.

Once you’ve successfully done this, it’s time to generate interest.

Interest

Attention, interest, desire. What’s the difference?

Not much, actually.

That’s why writing with AIDA takes so long to master. You need to carefully craft your words.

Otherwise you end up making a mess of your thoughts.

Attention hooks the reader in. It’s bold. It gets them clicking through and wanting more.

Interest, on the other hand, is much more subtle.

You can achieve interest by first formatting your content properly. That means short sentences and paragraphs, speaking in the customer’s language, establishing a friendly voice, and creating a logical order of points.

This prevents readers from becoming confused or disinterested, helping them to flow through reading like water in a river.

Here’s an example of a Moz article that’s formatted to keep interest piqued:

Moz formatting example

There’s plenty of white space, images are easy to view, and the typography is formatted to make reading effortless.

Think of it like the RPMs on a car’s dash. One a customer is revved up, you want to keep it there.

Secondly, elaborating on what originally generated the reader’s attention is very important for helping interest continue to bubble.

Let’s say that you write an article on search engine marketing trends.

After hooking the reader through the headline and intro, you then cultivate interest by doing some of the following things:

  • Citing a case study that shows a company using one of the trends you’ve covered and the ROI it had. This solidifies your point while proving what you’re talking about has true potential.
  • You add an exciting statistic about search engines that backs up your point and gives the reader food for thought.
  • Source a graph or chart that has relevant data to the topic.
  • Tell a personal story related to how you found these trends or used them yourself to achieve success.

Once you have done this, it’s time for next step.

Desire

Readers and customers are selfish.

They are very “me, me, me” types of people.

In fact, we all are at times.

Imagine the last time you were shopping online. You probably ran different keyword searches looking for some product knowledge. Then looking into pricing, the best deals, discount codes, and generally scoured the internet to find out what you wanted.

But, have you ever gotten irritated that after all that time searching you still feel like you haven’t found the right ‘thing’ yet.

Me, too. It’s also why desire is a critical component to the copywriting formula I’m teaching you today.

This is because everyone wants to know what’s in it for them.

After creating attention and interest, it’s now time to talk about the benefits of your product, service, blog post, etc.

Here’s another sales letter that nails the concept of creating desire beautifully:

Gary Halbert sales letter on copy

The letter is offering readers a report that will teach them the secrets of writing great copy.

The fourth paragraph talks about how the report will reveal strategies for writing better copy and Gary Halbert’s “secret copywriting weapons”.

Think about what your readers or customers truly want. Perhaps it’s a primal desire they aren’t aware of themselves or something more obvious.

Either way, focus on that aspect at this point in your copy and it will get them jumping out of their seat for more.

Action

They’ve made it all this way.

The reader loved your headline, the introduction got them interested more, and you’ve cooked up a large amount of desire.

Now it’s time to help them take action.

Whether you’re producing a landing page, SEO article, or anything in between, there needs to be a call to action at some point.

This can be for purchasing a product, scheduling a demo, offering a lead magnet, or whatever makes sense for your individual campaign.

You can achieve any of these things using a clear call to action. A.K.A a statement that tells the reader what to do next.

Look how Ann Handley, a writer I look up to, has a CTA at the end of her blog posts for a newsletter:

Ann Handley CTA

This helps her generate more email subscribers that she can use to drive traffic to her blog or other offers.

Another good example is the AI company Morphio who educates readers on advanced marketing topics then proposes users to demo their automation platform:

Morphio AI cta

Why have readers go through an entire piece of content without it leading anywhere?

Always think of how you can add a smart call to action to your copy or other material, as well.

What I mean by smart is that it directly relates to the topic and isn’t a generic statement.

Looking back at the Morphio example, their article was titled “Google Analytics vs Hotjar”. They then state their software has Google Analytics integration if readers want to see how it works first-hand.

That’s clever.

Your Next Step to Using AIDA in Your Copywriting

There are millions of copywriting formulas you can use but AIDA takes the cake.

It’s heavily customizable and spices up any copy when you use it correctly.

The first step is to grab the attention of readers through powerful headlines and introductions. This is done by creating urgency, making bold statements, or addressing the reader personally.

Keeping their interest high can be achieved through presenting data, interesting statistics, and making your copy easy to read via proper formatting.

Desire is generated by explaining what’s in it for them. Talk up the benefits about your product or the information you’re presenting.

Then, don’t forget to end it with a clear call to action. This should move them closer to the sale or your campaign’s main goal.

Reach out to me for copywriting services if you need a hand.

How do you plan to use the AIDA copywriting formula now that you know the ins and outs?

John Cerpnjak
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