What Is a Swipe File? (And Why Every Copywriter Needs One)

What Is a Swipe File? (And Why Every Copywriter Needs One)

A swipe file is a collection of memorable content that you can use for copywriting ideas. Save what you love on websites, landing pages, pricing pages, blogs, emails, ads, etc. Then, when the well runs dry, you’ve got a handy file of inspiration.

If you struggle with knowing where to start on a copy project, add an organized swipe file to your copywriting toolbox.

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

Copywriting would be way more difficult if I didn’t have a swipe file to draw from. And I would be way more anxious. 

With a swipe file you’ll be able to lose most, if not all, of the unease that we copywriters find at the crossroads of Apprehension Ave. and Panic St. when it’s time to start a new project.

So, dear Copyhacker, I’m going to walk you through what a swipe is, why every copywriter should swipe and then how you can swipe. 

What is a swipe file?

Copyhackers defines a swipe file this way:

It’s a collection of content examples from websites, landing pages, emails, etc., that you love or that caught your eye. Save ’em when you find ’em, then, when you’re facing writer’s block or your well of ideas has run dry, you’ve got a handy file of inspiration.

A swipe file helps you with the most difficult part of writing. Which is starting to write

Swipe files take the edge off the paralysis and anxiety that comes with starting a writing project.

Why every copywriter should have a swipe file

Let’s say you need to write a homepage for a client in the fitness industry. You’ve done your research and you’re ready to write. But you could use a little inspiration to help you get started.

This is when you could consult your swipe file and browse through the collection of fitness home pages you’ve saved. 

Like these:

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 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.

Then, the next time you’re looking for ideas, you can visit your abundant collection.

What if you’re swiping a dud?

When you consult your swipes, you likely won’t know whether or not it converted well – unless you’re adding swipes like this or this.

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
  • 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. 

Do more than scratch the surface with your swipe files

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.

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