The OATH Copywriting Formula Explained

Most copywriting formulas are focused on moving prospects further along the sales funnel, persuading them to purchase your solution or take your desired action. But what about people who aren’t in your funnel at all? What about readers who not only aren’t interested in your solution, but aren’t even aware that they have a problem? 

The OATH copywriting formula is designed for completely “cold” prospects: people who think that your content isn’t relevant to their needs or interests. It’s a great tool for search, social, and sales, attracting disinterested readers and drawing them into your sales funnel for later conversions. 

What is the OATH Copywriting Formula?

The OATH Copywriting formula is designed to capture the interest and attention of people who are in the pre-awareness stage. OATH stands for Oblivious, Apathetic, Thinking, or Hurting. These are the thoughts and feelings of disinterested readers, and copy crafted for these pre-awareness stages helps to move them into awareness, for later conversion with AIDA or other copywriting formula.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the stages of the OATH formula:


These audience members aren’t even aware that a problem exists. They aren’t searching for your solution. In fact, they aren’t searching for a solution at all. They are likely to “bounce” from a web page or disregard an advertisement because they think it doesn’t apply to them.  


These audience members are vaguely aware that they have a problem, but are indifferent to it. They aren’t motivated to seek solutions, because they don’t feel any need to try to solve their problem. 


These audience members are thinking about their problem, but not highly motivated to seek solutions. They may be doing early research and considering options, but aren’t ready to take the next step. 


These audience members are struggling with their problem, and are often skeptical because they have tried other solutions in the past. They may be both overwhelmed by their problem, and suspicious of offered solutions. 

How to Use the OATH Formula in Practice

The OATH formula is most frequently used in SEO to make sure that your web copy corresponds to these stages in the OATH process. To use the OATH formula, it’s helpful to imagine search queries for each stage and then write copy that matches those queries and builds interest. Here are some examples:

  • Oblivious: “tooth care” or “why is crabgrass bad?”
  • Apathetic: “yellow teeth” or “do I need to get rid of crabgrass?”
  • Thinking: “teeth whitening” or “how to remove crabgrass?”
  • Hurting: “white teeth guarantee” or “why can’t I kill my crabgrass?”

When to Use the OATH Formula

The OATH copywriting formula can be used in three important ways: 

  1. Web content. Because OATH is so effective for SEO, it’s a fantastic way to strategize your web copywriting. OATH copy should be used throughout a business site, especially on pillar pages, landing pages, and cluster pages. 
  1. Longer-form ads and promotional content. If you are writing a quick display ad, you may only be able to capture leads at a single stage of awareness. However, if you are writing longer-form advertisements, like commercials for radio or video, or product brochures with room for more copy, OATH is a great way to warm up cold leads and move them into your funnel. Because OATH requires zero initial awareness or interest, it can be broadly targeted toward the general public, with less segmentation. 
  1. Beat writer’s block. If you are engaged in long-term content marketing, it can sometimes be a challenge to come up with fresh ideas for blogging or social channels. OATH is a great tool for “resetting” your content strategy and bringing it back to basics, inspiring fresh ideas. You can also use Google’s “people also ask” feature to discover new OATH queries that inspire new content for your marketing efforts.   

The OATH formula encourages writers to empathize and put themselves in the position of a reader, sharing their feelings and emotions, and thus creating corresponding persuasive copy. It’s an incredibly useful and versatile copywriting formula.  


The OATH formula is designed to capture cold leads and convert them into interested prospects.

It’s a great way to create content for the general public who don’t even know that they have a problem, and to attract search traffic through targeted queries at every stage. Using the OATH formula can also help writers beat writer’s block and refresh their approach, so it’s a tool every professional copywriter should be aware of. 

If you’re interested in this copywriting formula you may want to check out our post ‘A Copywriter’s Guide to the Best Copywriting Formulas’ which contains an extensive list of all the best formulas.

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About Rebekah Villon

Rebekah Villon is a professional writer and marketing consultant who specialises in strategic content for B2B communications. In her personal life, she enjoys the freedom of remote digital work while travelling, pursuing hobbies, and continuous learning.

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