Paywall Copywriting Dos and Don’ts

Paywall Design paywall optimization


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Why paywall copy optimization is more important than you think

As an app marketer working with limited resources, setting priorities between enhancing the app's features, content, and subscription plans is a common challenge.

You might also ponder the true value of refining paywall copy when presenting what your app has to offer.

While there's a tendency to shift focus toward paywall design, it's critical to balance this with the power of effective copywriting. Though visuals are impactful—studies suggest we process images 60,000 times faster than text— this doesn't and shouldn't diminish the role of copy.

In app marketing, copy is a pivotal factor. It not only influences open rates, conversions, and click-through success but also plays a key role in overall engagement and brand perception.

Interestingly, for landing pages, copy is often more influential than design, contributing to over 65% of their conversion success, compared to design's 30%.

Effective paywall copy serves various distinct roles beyond these aspects. Let's now explore these unique functions.


The five pillars of outstanding paywall copywriting

In marketing — any kind of marketing, in fact — 'copy' isn't merely a cluster of words; it's the heartbeat of a brand. It serves as the bridge connecting a brand's mission and vision to what the audience desires.

Hannah Parvaz on Paywall Copywriting

Hannah Parvaz, founder of Aperture and an award-winning marketing consultant, shared with us the five essential pillars of perfect paywall copywriting.

*Aperture offers performance marketing, creative strategy, growth consulting, coaching, and product management. 

1. Good copy is personal and contextual

Did someone tap on a piece of content to trigger the paywall? Feature it. Speak to people, not at them. This approach builds a stronger connection and makes your offer more appealing.

Do this: “Keep your memories safe.”

Not that: "Protect your data"


2. Good copy is useful

Get straight to the point—think "Just Do It" a la Nike. Remove fluff to make your message easier to understand, and in turn, easier for users to say yes.

Do this: "Non-stop entertainment"

Not that: "Gain access to an unlimited plethora of streaming content."


3. Good copy highlights what's in it for them

Understand your customers' needs to effectively communicate how your product benefits them. Engaging in regular dialogue with your audience helps you achieve this.

✅ Do this: “Read comfortably at night.” 

❌ Not that: “Dark mode available”


4. Good copy is consistent

If your app's tone is casual and quirky, maintain it. Switching between tones can disorient users.

Maintain a uniform tone throughout. If your overall messaging is casual, your paywall should reflect that. Steer clear of uninspiring language while ensuring you spark curiosity and interest.

Do This

❌ Not that

Headline: Get fit, have fun

Headline: Elevate your fitness journey


  • "Never bored - guaranteed”

  • "Your playlist list, your vibe"

  • "Get high fives all around"


  • "Never bored - guaranteed”

  • "Customized fitness protocols to your precise needs"

  • "Get high fives all around"


  • "Train with a-lister coaches”

  • "Custom tunes & plans"

  • "Clubhouse membership"


  • "Train with a-lister coaches”

  • "Custom tunes & plans"

  • "Clubhouse membership"

CTA: "Join the fun!"

CTA: "Embark your fitness journey"

5. Good copy triggers an emotional response

Avoid misleading tactics. Ensure your product lives up to its promise and communicate that clearly on the paywall. Consider adding testimonials, reviews, or awards for credibility.

Do this: “Join 50,000+ happy subscribers. Rated 4.9/5 on AppReview!”

Not that: “Best app in the world.” 



The five pitfalls of bad paywall copywriting

Great copywriting fuels brand loyalty and engagement. But mess it up, and you might send app users sprinting the other way. Try avoiding these pitfalls:

1. Bad copy bores

A bad copy will use monotonous and uninspiring language, leaving users simply unimpressed. Paywalls with boring copy fail to spark curiosity!

👎 Original: "Subscribe for More Content."

👍 Revised for Effectiveness: "Unlock Endless Fun!"


2. Bad copy misleads

Trust is the foundation of any meaningful relationship, including the one between an app and its users. A bad copy might present information that's ambiguous or even deceptive leaving users hesitant.

👎 Original: "Unlock all features forever!"

🤷🏽‍♀️ Reality: The subscription only lasts one year.

👍 Revised for clarity: "Enjoy all features for a full year!"


3. Bad copy ignores

Like all businesses, successful app marketing focuses on understanding and meeting user needs. Bad copy can miss the mark by talking 'at' users instead of 'to' them, losing that personal connection.

👎 Original: "Subscribe Now for Enhanced Features."

👍 Revised for personal touch: "Hand-picked package just for you—See the difference!"


4. Bad copy overcomplicates

A bad copy might take straightforward concepts and present them in complex ways, rather leading to confusion and reducing the paywall's overall impact and effectiveness. 

👎 Original: "Access the multifaceted, enhanced utility functions inclusive in our premium package."

👍  Revised for simplicity: "Get more with premium!"


5. Bad copy detaches

Bad copy often lacks the human touch - empathy, relatability, or a genuine connection with its readers. Avoid making audiences feel like just another “revenue opportunity”. 

👎 Original: "Upgrade for enhanced fitness features."

👍 Revised for connection: "Your goals, our guidance - Get fit faster"


Paywall copywriting best examples 

Example 1 - Themify

Themify app copywriting example

Strong points:

  • Straightforward: The essentials – "what," "why," "how," and "next steps" – are articulated with clarity and precision, ensuring users get everything they need on a single screen.

  • Consistent: The paywall seamlessly mirrors the copy style that resonates throughout the onboarding process.

  • Emotional: The screen cleverly shows real user feedback, and by placing it right under the headline, it quickly connects with the user on an emotional level.

Example 2 - Grammarly

Grammarly app copywriting example

Strong points:

  • Readable: Grammarly’s paywall screen has clear text that's easy to read, with plenty of space and well-chosen colors. It shows they really focus on making things readable for users.

  • Useful: The paywall screen uses a carousel to clearly show the app's features. It also has a table that clearly points out the differences between the free and premium versions.

  • Consistent: The paywall screen has a flow to it. It mixes different types of content but always comes back to familiar themes, making the design and experience consistent for the user.


Example 3 - Bend 

Bend app copywriting example

  • Readable: There's plenty of space and the paywall uses short words. All the benefits are short and to the point, making it easy to read.

  • Useful: The long paywall allows the space to show lots of different things without making the screen feel crowded. It has benefits, user reviews, and special offers all in one place.

  • Emotional: Phrases like 'Unlock your body’s potential', 'Feel great', and 'Join a community' speak to users on a personal level. The user reviews add a personal touch that helps connect emotionally.

Example 4: Drops

Drops app copywriting example

  • Readable: The headline is catchy and the pricing is clear. The use of white space makes it easy on the eyes.

  • Straightforward: "Learn thousands of words with unlimited time and no ads" gets straight to the point about the benefits.

  • Consistent: The positive vibe on the paywall matches the app's overall feel, keeping everything in line with the brand.

  • Emotional: Phrases like "On Drops everywhere" give a sense of a worldwide community. Showing awards builds trust and encourages users to upgrade.



Paywall Copywriting Guidebook
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