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The hidden dangers of swipe files—and how to avoid them

It happens to all of us at some point.

You see ad copy that’s making bank for a competitor, so you copy/paste it, change a few words here and there, and wait for the conversions to roll in…

… Only they don’t. Instead your ad flops, and you have no idea why.

This is an easy mistake to make with copywriting swipe files. Too many copywriters fall into the “shiny object” trap, wasting the potential of swipe files—and hurting their copy as a result.

Here’s how to avoid hurting your copy with bad swipe files:

  • Remember that you’re not the target audience. When you see copy that you like, consider who it was written for and whether it’d work for your audience. Because, in most cases, what you like isn’t always what your intended audience likes.
  • Keep context in mind. Too many swipe files take copy completely out of context. And just because something works in one context, like a long-form sales email for an established brand, doesn’t mean it’ll work in another, like a short-form landing page for a startup.
  • Don’t take inspiration from copy you wish you wrote. Take it from copy that made you buy. It’s easy to read a clever line and think, “woah, I wish I wrote this, it’s so good.” But that’s a mistake. Don’t fall for what’s clever—fall for what works.

Now, the question is… how should you use swipe files?

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